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“Go and Get a Job” – a victory for Testators?

A daughter who contested her late father’s Will on the basis it did not leave “reasonable financial provision” for her has been told to “go and get a job” by a judge.

Danielle Ames was a 41 year old unemployed mother of 2 who contested her father’s Will after he left everything to her step-mother, Elaine Ames, to whom he had been married to for over 30 years.  The daughter argued that the disinheritance had left her facing extraordinary debts, with her outgoings exceeding her income by £2,000 per month.  However, Judge David Halpern QC did not accept this and said that Danielle’s unemployment was “a lifestyle choice” and, by contrast, her step mother required every penny of the deceased’s fortune in order to continue living comfortably in her retirement.

The deceased’s Estate had been valued at around £1,000,000, the main bulk of which was his property worth around £650,000.  Danielle Ames made a claim for £300,000 from the Estate but the Judge did not accept this.  It was held that Danielle had been young when her parents had divorced and that her father had given her “considerable financial assistance” over the years including by helping her to set up her own business.  The judge ruled that “Danielle has no disability and is fit to work. In contrast, Elaine is past working age and it is apparent that she is not well”.

It was therefore held that the deceased’s widow should receive the whole of the Estate as he had intended and Danielle is to receive nothing.  Danielle has further been ordered to pay both her costs, and the costs of her step-mother, to the tune of £132,000.

This case will come as welcome news to Testators who worry about their wishes being overruled by family members after their death, particularly after the recent case of Ilott v Mitson.

If you would like to discuss your own Will in more detail and how this case might affect you, please contact Georgina Roberts