A woman has been awarded £30,000 from her father’s estate despite the fact that he made it clear he had disinherited his children, in the first judgment of its kind since a landmark Supreme Court ruling that was thought to clarify testamentary freedom and what constitutes reasonable provision.
Elena Nahajec was awarded the figure from Stanley Nahajec’s £240,000 estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
In the judgment, handed down at the County Court at Leeds, His Honour Judge Saffman said Nahajec should be due maintenance because she wanted to complete a veterinary course.
The award was despite her having almost no contact with her father for several years before his death 2015. He left a letter explicitly disinheriting all three of his children, instead leaving the whole of his estate to his friend Stephen Fowle.
Mark Nahajec, a half-sibling of Elena who was unable to work through ill-health, made a claim under the 1975 act which was settled for £22,000. The third sibling, Philip Nahajec, made no claim.
Julia Burns, associate in the wills, trusts and estates disputes team at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said that after Ilott it was thought that estrangement could be fatal or severely reduce the value of an award.
‘The award was 11.3% of the estate which is very similar to that in the Ilott case (within 1%). There was specific mention of her wanting to do a veterinary course so this is an example of something that falls under the definition of “maintenance” post Ilott. This means that estranged child claims are not dead in the water but suggests that any claimants will need to show a track record of reconciliation attempts in order for the Judges to consider their views.’
Saffman wrote: ‘£30,000 is my best estimate of the capitalised cost of maintenance for a reasonable time going forward to take into account the possibility, albeit contingent, of the claimant undertaking a course which ultimately results in her becoming a veterinary nurse.’