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18 April 2016 | Comment | Article by Roman Kubiak TEP

When enough is enough

In December 2015, I commented on the case of Wooldridge v. Wooldridge. At the time of writing, the decision was yet to be made as to whether Mrs Wooldridge would be allowed further provision from her husband’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

The facts were that Ian Wooldridge died in October 2010, leaving his widow, Thandi, and two sons, Charlie and Rhett. Mrs Wooldridge inherited her husband’s 140-acre Surrey estate and £1.6m in other assets. She was also awarded £1.9 million in compensation over his death; he was killed in a helicopter crash. However, Mrs Wooldridge was claiming a further £3.75 million to cover her £372,000 per annum lifestyle.

Her claim was being met with strong opposition from her step-son, Charlie, whose barrister, Penelope Reed QC, stated that such a pay-out would only be realistic if Ian Wooldridge had been worth £100 million.

On 12 February 2016 the decision was made. Her Honour Judge Karen Walden-Smith found in favour of Charlie. The claim was therefore dismissed in its entirety.

In her conclusion, Her Honour Judge Karen Walden-Smith accepted that the deceased and his wife lived lavish lifestyles beyond most people’s. However, she rejected that that lifestyle ever involved expenditure of £372,000 per annum.

Judge Walden-Smith also stated that there was no hard evidence to substantiate such a lavish annual allowance and that Mrs Wooldridge’s claim was contradicted by evidence. It certainly was not a claim that was supported by her expenditure at the date of the trial or her previous expenditure. The amount was merely being built as the claim continued.

The conclusion therefore was that the deceased’s will had made reasonable provision for Mrs Wooldridge and that the estate did not have sufficient liquid assets to cover such a lifestyle without selling assets which would be significantly adverse to the interests of her step-sons.

Judge Walden-Smith summed up by saying “Thandi has enough.”

This landmark ruling is believed to be the first time a claim by a widow under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 has been dismissed without any further financial provision being awarded out of the estate.

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.

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