Recent reports in the media suggest that Blake Civil-Fielder, the ex-husband of the late singer Amy Winehouse, intends to pursue a claim against the late singer’s estate, seeking a lump sum payment along with an on-going monthly allowance for his needs. It has been suggested that the total value of the proposed claim could be in the region of £1 million.
It is now a little over 8 years since Amy died on 23 July 2011. Having died intestate (without having made a will), her net estate, which was valued at £2.94 million, passed in its entirety to her parents, Janis and Mitch. Following the surge in interest in her music following her death, the value of her estate is likely to have increased significantly since that time.
Amy and Blake were married for approximately two years before divorcing in 2009. As part of the divorce settlement, it is understood that Amy paid Blake approximately £250,000. One crucial question is whether this payment and the overall divorce settlement amounted to a clean break. If it did, then no further claim would be permitted against Amy’s estate.
The most obvious claim that Blake could pursue against the estate would be under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. As Amy’s former spouse, Blake could bring such a claim provided he hasn’t since remarried.
However, there is a further obstacle for Blake to overcome. A claim under the 1975 Act should usually be brought within six months from the grant in the estate. Probate records confirm that the grant of administration in Amy’s estate was issued on 23 March 2012. Blake will therefore need to obtain the court’s permission to bring any such claim out of time. There have been a raft of recent cases where the courts have ruled on claims of this type being brought out of time, and it will be interesting to see what, if any, reasons Blake presents to the court in trying to justify the delay.
If Blake is successful in overcoming the limitation and clean break issues, the court will then need to consider a number of factors including, but not limited to, Blake’s financial resources and needs, the current size of the estate and the needs of any other beneficiaries.
This is a story that will no doubt continue to generate coverage, and we await the outcome with interest.
Roman Kubiak is a partner and head of the market leading Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates team.
He advises across the whole spectrum of private wealth disputes, with a particular focus on high value, complex and cross-border disputes including: trust disputes, breach of trust claims and applications to remove trustees; will disputes, particularly those with an international element; claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975; and claims for equitable relief under proprietary estoppel, constructive trusts and resulting trusts.
Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.
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