Strict 6-month time limit upheld for spouse to make claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.
Dale-Gough v Dale-Gough
Former UKIP Councillor, Diana Dale-Gough’s case is an unfortunate one with no winners. The case highlights the importance of getting legal advice on the merits of any claim early. Diana did not act swiftly or pursue her claim which sadly, led to the position where the house in which she resided had to be sold.
Diana’s husband died in 2013. A will created in 2005 specified that Diana should have a life interest in his property, worth around £800,000. It also specified that if the house were to be sold, the proceeds should be split between Diana and her husband’s 2 children from a previous marriage.
Diana brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 to the County Court, asking for further provision from her husband’s estate. The claim was denied in 2020 as Diana failed to meet the time limits for bringing her claim and did not have good enough reason to justify the delay. As a result, Diana was ordered to pay her stepchildren’s legal costs, which were around £100,000.
The Judge ordered that the property she lived in be sold to create the funds required to pay the debt owed to the stepchildren. The Judge noted that whilst it was the intention of the Deceased to allow Diana the opportunity to live in the property for her lifetime, it was also right that, with her agreement, a sale of the property could take place and, if that sale took place, part of the proceeds would be available for an alternative property to be acquired for her.
As a result of Diana’s initial claim, there was now a long-standing personal debt, which the Judge stated, “had arisen as a direct consequence of the manner in which she conducted the Inheritance Act proceedings”. The Judge also noted that the wife had done nothing to mitigate this position since the initial proceedings were struck out.
This case serves as a salient reminder to potential claimants under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 to act swiftly and seek legal specialist legal advice at an early stage. Further, the case reminds practitioners and claimants alike that the Court will take the parties’ conduct into account when considering who should bear the costs of any claim, and that potential applicants should not simply assume that the estate will bear the costs.
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