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Sing Whilst You’re Winning – Opera Singer Son Follows His Dream by Securing University Fees From Father’s Estate


The recent case of Taylor v Bell & Anor 2015 shows that the court has unfettered discretion when it comes to varying orders that have already been agreed between the parties in Inheritance Act claims.

In Taylor v Bell the testator Peter Gardiner, died on the 18th December 2006, his estate was worth approximately 2 million pounds. Peter had two sons, Lee and Miles Taylor. He left a will stipulating that £350,000.00 was to go to two main charities, Peter’s personal possessions were left to Lee and the residue was put in a discretionary trust that was set up the same day as the will.

Miles was 17 when his father died and was originally excluded from the will. Miles had learning difficulties but was very musically talented from a young age. He was passionate about pursuing his dream of becoming an opera singer.

Miles made a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision out of his father’s estate. In April 2008 whilst the parties were in the process of negotiating a settlement, Miles was involved in a road traffic accident and suffered multiple chest injuries and a liver laceration.

In May 2008 an agreement was made out of court and a consent order was drawn up setting out the terms. The order essentially made financial provision for Miles throughout his higher education. Miles would receive periodical payments up until the 31st August 2014 these payments in total were limited to £210,000 which was set aside in a separate bank account. At the time of the hearing £112,443 had been used from the trust to fund Miles’ education.

Due to his learning difficulties and road accident Miles’ higher education route took longer than he had planned. He was due to finish his undergraduate studies in the summer of 2015 and decided that he wanted to do a 2 year post graduate course at the Royal College of Music that was due to start in September 2015.

Miles made an application under section 6 of the Inheritance Act to change the terms of the original consent order. He also argued that he had not claimed any money for fees and accommodation from 2009 – 2011. As a result Miles asked for his unpaid maintenance to be deferred until the 2015 – 2017 academic years.

The executors of his father’s estate argued that they were under a duty to adhere to the original order and did not have the power to change any of its terms. They also said that Miles was not talented enough to go on to a post graduate study and there were other means by which he could fund his education, such as government grants.

Judge Behrens held that he had complete discretion to vary the terms of the order. He believed that Miles was a ‘talented and committed’ singer and had good prospects of being offered a post graduate place in singing. He went on to say that Miles’ ‘financial circumstances are such that financial provision is reasonably required by him to complete his post graduate studies.’ Miles was awarded £6,500 for year ending August 2015 and the sum of £7,500 for each of the next two years.

Samantha Hirst a paralegal at Ridley & Hall says: – “Although this case is rather unique, the courts have adopted a common sense approach by using its discretion to vary orders, especially when it comes to periodical payments. This case was partly successful because the claimant was not asking for a dramatic change to the original terms of the order.”

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Sam is a paralegal in the Litigation team with experience in will disputes and personal injury cases. She is able to offer no win no fee agreements for Inheritance Act claims.
She prides herself on providing an approachable, friendly service to clients and enjoys the challenge of pursuing cases for them.

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