MW’s Head of Estate and Trust Disputes Team, Hayley Bundey, discusses the sad state of affairs which Lynda Bellingham’s sons have been left in following her death and their exclusion from her Will.
As most people are aware, Lynda died from cancer in 2014 and shortly before her death she executed a Will providing for her entire estate to be left to her husband Michael Pattemore. Her children from an earlier marriage, Robert and Michael Peluso, are now bringing a claim against Lynda’s Estate in an attempt to restore their mother’s Estate to its rightful heirs.
Her sons claim the sole reason for Lynda leaving her Estate to her husband of some 6 years was for inheritance tax saving and she trusted him to provide for her children once she was gone. Unfortunately, as is often the case in step-families, this did not transpire after Lynda’s death and instead Mr Pattemore is alleged to have spent thousands of pounds on several lavish holidays as well as several hundreds of thousands on a mansion. At the same time he is stated to have provided little provision for Robert and Michael (some £750) and instead is seeking to evict them from their home.
Robert and Michael are now understood to be bringing a claim against Lynda’s Estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 (“the 1975 Act”). They are eligible to bring such a claim under section 1(1)(c) of the 1975 Act as children of the deceased. If successful, the Court could redistribute Lynda’s Estate according to what it considers is reasonable financial provision for Robert and Michael according to the maintenance standard (which doesn’t place them on the breadline but tries to provide them with what they may reasonably need now and in the future from the Estate).
Robert and Michael have openly said that they have invited Mr Pattemore to resolve the claim amicably through mediation but so far he is reported to have refused their invitations. This is an unfortunate position for Mr Pattemore to adopt given how keen the Courts are now for parties to attempt Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR – including mediation) of such claims and it is likely that if he continues to adopt this position he will be penalised on costs at a final trial if and when Robert and Michael succeed on their claim.
The whole situation is a stark reminder for parents, particularly parents in second and subsequent marriages, to ensure that their Wills reflect their true wishes without relying on their spouses to “do the right thing” by their children. Inevitably such trust is often misplaced and parents will therefore leave their children with the very daunting and distressing task of facing legal proceedings against their step-parent at the very time when they should be grieving their parent’s loss.
Thankfully, the 1975 Act is there to protect such children in the event that things don’t go as planned.
We Can Help
At McMillan Williams, our mission is "to make quality legal services accessible to everyone", including step families who feel they may have been wrongly excluded from their parent's Will. Our Specialist Inheritance Disputes Team are here to help and can provide information about any type of inheritance dispute or claim.