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Mr and Mrs B Henderson, Chipping Norton
Our client, (“AB”), started a relationship with the defendant (“CD”) in or about 1996. Some time in 2002 the Parties decided to purchase land, (“the Property”), with the express intention to develop the land for the purposes of setting up an equestrian business and that all expenditure be shared equally.
On 25th October, 2002 the Property was transferred in to the joint names of the Parties together with a Declaration on Form TR1 that they hold the Property on trust for themselves as Tenants in Common in equal shares. Each party paid £60,000 towards the purchase of the land, purchase of a barn, caravan and other initial infrastructure costs of the business.
In or around March 2005 the Parties began living together in the caravan on the property. The relationship broke down in 2008 and AB initially moved out into a motorhome on the property but later left to live elsewhere. Since 2002, AB had carried out substantial works and improvements in furtherance of the business amounting to £72,400. In addition, AB had contributed towards the expenditure on the Property the sum of approximately £52,000, whilst CD contributed approximately £27,700.
The Parties were unable to resolve their dispute over the property and AB commenced proceedings by way of a Part 7 Claim. The primary claim was for a Declaration that the Property is held by AB and CD in proportion to their contribution.
At the adjourned Hearing we argued that CD in her Defence had expressly and specifically pleaded her agreement that the Property had been purchased in equal shares as a business venture and that all expenditure was to be shared equally between the Parties. In the premises this was a commercial venture and thus distinct from the past case of Clarke v. Harlowe. In Clarke v. Harlowe His Honour Judge Bahrens suggested that in cohabitation cases a breach of some contractual obligation is required before equitable accounting could come in to play and only in respect of the period following the termination of the relationship. In contrast our client’s claim was for breach of agreement between him and CD and that this reversed the legal status of the tenancy in common in equal shares and that the Parties became tenants in common in proportion to their contributions and that equitable accounting should take effect immediately from the date of the breach. The District Judge could not determine this and adjourned the Hearing before a Circuit Judge.In the interim the parties were able to arrive at a solution following a full day’s Mediation Hearing. Our client purchased CD’s interest in the Partnership for the sum of £155,000 with CD transferring all
Our client,, came to see us shortly after her mother passed away regarding her mother’s Will.
Her mother had made a Will leaving disproportionate shares in her Estate to her four children. Our client and her brother were each to receive a 47% share of the residue, with the other two sisters sharing a 3% share of the residue. The other 3% was to be left to the testatrix’s grandchildren.
Her mother had written a letter to one of our client’s sisters explaining the basis for her decision to bequeath a lesser amount to her. The reason she gave was that she felt safe in the knowledge that this particular daughter was and would continue to be comfortably off. Evidently, it seems that her mother wished to bring about an equal balance of wealth between her four children. Unfortunately, it does not appear that her other sister received a similar letter explaining why she was being left a smaller share.
The sisters who were left a smaller share in the Estate intended to challenge the terms of their mother’s Will on the basis that equal provision should have been made for all four children. They notified our client of their intention to commence proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Our client, also being one of the executors of the Will, sought to defend the action.
The sisters put forward a without prejudice proposal requesting that they each be paid £30,000 from the shares which our client and her brother were due to inherit. We were of the view that the sisters had not satisfied the criteria set out in sections 1 and 3 of the Act in that they were not in need of any financial provision and neither had been maintained by the Testatrix. We therefore advised our client reject their offer.
We are currently waiting to hear from the sisters’ solicitors with a detailed letter before claim. The issue to determine is whether the sisters are able to maintain a claim within the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Whilst we have initially argued that they would fail we are anxious of recent case law such as Ilot v Mitson & Others  EWCA Civ 346 and have advised our client that should we receive a detailed letter of claim we should consider mediation.
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