How a ‘penniless ballet dancer’ was able to bring a claim against her grandmother’s estate
A granddaughter who selflessly devoted herself to caring for her grandmother with dementia for 7 years before her death has been awarded a life changing sum by a Judge. The award was made following a trial at Central London County Court on 7th February 2019. Lynsey Delaforte, 36, was awarded £110,000 by His Honour Judge Johns after a 2 day hearing.
The case appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail;
“Often when I tell people about the work I do they tell me that they think it’s wrong that someone should be able to contest a will; that the deceased’s last wishes should be respected. Sometimes that’s true, but in this case it isn’t. Lynsey’s gran had made a will in 2006 leaving her estate to her two children, Annette (Lynsey’s mum) and Paul Flood (her uncle). She had started to suffer the symptoms of dementia which became progressively worse. By 2008 after she had suffered a broken hip following a fall, it was clear that if someone move in to her home to look after her, she would have had to be placed in a care home.
Lynsey had at that time accepted voluntary redundancy from her marketing job at the Financial Times. She was hoping to make a career teaching dance – which was her passion. She put those dreams on hold, aged 26, to move in with her gran and provided devoted care to her almost singlehandedly for 7 years.
As a result, Lynsey was financially dependent on her gran, and on her death was faced with the prospect of finding somewhere to live, with no income or assets to her name. Her gran’s estate had not been spent on care home fees and so was valued at £650,000. Her mother was happy for her to have a lump sum from the estate but her uncle was not.”
Lynsey was entitled to bring a claim against her late grandmother’s estate on the basis that she had been financially dependent on her immediately before her death, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Her uncle argued that she had been a ‘commercial carer’ and so was not entitled to bring a claim – despite the lack of a written contract, holidays and even any pay to begin with! That argument collapsed under the expert cross examination of Lynsey’s barrister, Sarah Harrison.
It’s important to say that under the terms of the Inheritance Act, the Judge cannot make an award to a claimant to reward good behaviour. So Lynsey’s award of £110,000 was made following a calculation of the amount she would reasonably need to make up the shortfall in her income as a dance teacher for a period of around 3 years; to enable her to rent a flat, buy a second hand car and have a small lump sum for contingencies. Given that Lynsey had missed out on the opportunity to develop her career at a crucial period in her life, the Judge felt that it was reasonable for her gran’s estate to make this provision for her.
Sarah Young comments:
“Lynsey’s uncle Paul was, interestingly, penalised in the sense that normally the 2 beneficiaries, Paul and Annette would have expected to bear the burden of the award equally between themselves i.e. to have to contribute £55,000 each to Lynsey. But the Judge felt that a 60/40 split would be fair in this case because Paul was significantly better off than his sister. So Paul must pay Lynsey £66,000 and Annette only £44,000. Further, because Paul had fought the case to trial and refused settlement offers unreasonably, he was ordered to pay all of Lynsey’s legal costs and a significant proportion of his sister’s legal costs as well.”
Sarah is a specialist in inheritance disputes. She is a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) and Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). If you require legal help or advice, please contact us on 0800 8 60 62 65 or email Sarah direct.