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24 July 2019 | Comment | Article by Roman Kubiak TEP

Elizabeth Hurley’s son Damian wins multi-million pound inheritance dispute against grandfather

Damian Hurley, son of actor Elizabeth Hurley and multi-millionaire businessman Steve Bing, is set to inherit some his father’s fortune despite attempts by his grandfather to prevent him from accessing his inheritance.

Dr Peter Bing, Damian’s grandfather, set up a family trust in 1980 for the benefit of his future grandchildren. In March of this year, following enquiries by Damian’s half sister, Kira Kerkorian, as to her entitlement under the trust, one of the trustees filed court papers seeking to clarify the meaning of the term “grandchild.” The documents filed sought to interpret the term to mean that, in order to inherit under the trust, Dr Bing’s grandchildren must be “raised by [his] children as part of their families.” The documents also sought to exclude “any children born out of wedlock unless that person had lived for a substantial period of time as a regular member of the household.”

If approved, the interpretation would have resulted in the disinheritance of both Damian and Kira under the terms of the trust, as both children were born outside of marriage and reportedly have limited involvement with the Bing family. In his written evidence, Dr Bing stated, “regardless of whether, when and if Stephen met with or had any relationship with Damian or Kira while they are or were minor because neither was raised during their formative years I do not consider them my grandchildren.”

The case was heard in a Californian court by Judge Daniel Juarez. In his judgment, Judge Juarez halted the attempts by the trustee to redefine the term “grandchild”, stating that there was “no ambiguity in the Trust’s use of the term” and the trustee’s construction was “unreasonable” and “unfounded.”

The exact value of the trust is unknown but all of the grandchildren are expected to inherit several million pounds each.

While the rules vary from country to country, under English and Welsh law, following the introduction of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 the term “grandchild” automatically includes children born or conceived outside of marriage for the purpose of any distributions made after the Act came into force on 1 January 1970.

The case, however, highlights the need for clarity and certainty when defining a class of beneficiaries on setting up a trust in order to avoid any future disputes.

For more information or advice about contesting a will, please visit our Contested Wills, Trusts and Estates service pages.

Author bio

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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