In a landmark ruling, Hayley Gaffney at Coodes Solicitors has won a significant case for one of its clients securing £195,000 from the estate of their deceased parent.
The claim by Patrick Fennessy was brought under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. Coodes and New Square Chambers acted for him on a ‘no win no fee’ basis.
Hayley Gaffney from Coodes said: “Adult child claims under the Inheritance Act are notoriously difficult to plead and extremely difficult to predict. They are also relatively rare, but significant awards can be made to claimants who are compelling and where their claim can be properly evidenced and pleaded. This case may be the turning point for adult children bringing claims against ‘windfall’ beneficiaries that they have been waiting for.”
Represented by Coodes, Mr Fennessy brought the claim against the estate of his deceased mother, Hazel Fennessy. A disabled gentleman in his 60s, he applied to the court, on the basis that he was in significant financial need, unable to work full-time due to his disabilities and was living in a motorhome, which was cold and damp and unsuitable for him and could not afford to move into more suitable accommodation or properly provide for himself.
The defendant, Mrs Turner, a friend of the deceased, was the sole beneficiary of Hazel Fennessy’s estate worth £360,000. This was a windfall for her and, by her son’s own admission at the trial, she did not need the money.
She did not raise any needs-based defence but opposed the claim on the basis she wanted to comply with what was set out in the deceased’s will and a letter of wishes, not actually signed by Mrs Fennessy.
Judgement and award
The judgement was handed down in June and the claimant received an award of £195,000 plus his costs. Mrs Turner’s oral application for permission to appeal was refused.
As set out in his Judgment, the Judge was ‘unimpressed’ by Mrs Turner’s refusal to accept a reasonable offer made early in the proceedings.
The Judge stated that: “Whilst all Inheritance Act claims are uncertain from both parties’ perspectives, there is an expectation that parties will engage in those procedures to hopefully lead to a resolution.”
He added: “Mrs Turner did not advance any such offers nor make any serious attempts to settle the case. Whilst he recognised Mrs Turner’s wish to ‘protect the wishes’ of the claimant’s mother, she should have recognised the uncertainties and engaged more closely.”
Help with no win, no fee
Hayley Gaffney said: “Adult child claims can only to be brought by people suffering financial hardship and without the means to fund the claim by paying legal fees privately. This makes access to justice for those people very difficult without solicitors and barristers being willing to ‘back them’ by offering ‘no win, no fee’ agreements like Coodes entered into with Mr Fennessy in this case.”
Patrick Fennessy said of Hayley Gaffney: “I just wanted to say I adored you from the start! You’ve always been super-efficient and ahead of the game! Thank you for being you. Thank you for everything and making difficult situations somewhat easier. I simply cannot thank you enough.”
Hayley said: “Mr Fennessy’s case highlights that there is help out there and we can help you fund your legal representation if your claim has merit. Mr Fennessy did not have the personal finances to fund his case and if you find yourself in a similar position and need assistance, then we can explore the options available to you – please get in touch.”
The matter was subject to appeal which was heard at the High Court in Leeds on 7 December 2022. The appeal was dismissed, and Mrs Turner was ordered to pay Mr Fennessy’s costs of the appeal which were summarily assessed.
For more information or to contact Hayley Gaffney please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01726 874751.