Inheritance Act Claim For 13 Year Old Girl Settles At Mediation

We recently represented, Miss B, a 13 year-old girl, in her claim for financial provision from the estate of her late father who died intestate on 26th March 2004.

Her claim was made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants Act) 1975.

As her father had failed to execute a Will his estate was to be divided equally between his 7 children (including Miss B). However, all but one of the remaining children were adults and not financially dependant upon him.

Miss B on the other hand was receiving regular financial assistance from her father during their weekly contact visits, having separated from her mother.

The Executors of the estate had failed to distribute Miss B’s share of the intestate estate prior to her coming to us for advice in October 2010; some 6 years after the death.

On our advice, an inheritance claim was made against Mr B’s estate, involving the immediate commencement of court proceedings to protect her position once public funding (legal aid) was granted for her to pursue the 1975 Act claim.

The estate had been valued for probate purposes at around £210,000 but unfortunately a number of interim distributions had taken place during the 6 year period. This meant that the only real asset remaining in the estate was a property. This was stated to have been sold to one of the adult children but he had yet to pay for it. The net estate available for distribution was therefore around £54,000.

It was not possible to agree terms of settlement before service of proceedings but the parties did agree to stay (suspend) the proceedings for a period of four months to enable them to engage in mediation- thus saving legal costs from escalating.

A mediation took place in October 2011. It was apparent that a negotiated settlement was desirable as there were insufficient assets in the estate to justify the inheritance claim proceeding to trial. We were able to agree satisfactory terms of settlement, which also provided for payment of her legal costs.

As Miss B was a minor it was necessary to follow up the mediation with an ‘infant settlement approval hearing’ where the Court approved the terms of settlement as being in the interests of Miss B.

This case is an example of the importance of balancing the merits of a case (here they were very good as Miss B was not only a minor child but was also financially dependant on her late father) with the reality of the limited funds in an estate. Mediation allowed the parties to reach a settlement which avoided the costs that would be incurred to take the case to a contested hearing.