You may have seen a probate story in the news the last few days about a mother not being able to claim back money from her late son’s estate.
The mum said that she had loaned her son £170,000 in 2005 to help him buy a house.
Having been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in 2010, the son paid his mother £90,000 from a £350,000 compensation award he was given. The son then married before sadly passing away in 2016 with the entirety of his estate being left to his wife and a number of named charities.
Last June, the mother made a claim on the estate for the outstanding loan (£80,000) as she was not provided for in the deceased’s estate.
However, when the case came to court, the judge found that the mum had not proven the £90,000 was a repayment of the original loan rather than a gift. In addition, she wasn’t able to prove the original £170,000 was loaned rather than gifted to her son. Therefore, the judge ruled against the mum as he considered a legal principle called Presumption of Advancement (PoA) to apply.
What is a Presumption of Advancement?
Put simply, PoA is a well-established principle in UK law which states that courts will presume that, if a person transfers money or property to their spouse or child, this is considered to be a gift in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.
This is why, when the Court of Appeal heard the case again last month (December 2019), it upheld the original judge’s ruling due to a lack of evidence demonstrating that the money from the mother to the son in 2005 was intended as a loan rather than a gift.
To be clear, if this evidence had existed, this would have overridden the presumption of advancement. This evidence could have been something as simple as a hand-written agreement or IOU between the mum and her son.
What makes this case interesting is that provision was made in Section 199 of the Equality Act 2010 to abolish PoA. However, since then, this abolition has not been brought into force as part of UK common law. Additionally, when hearing cases involving PoA, no judge has created a legal precedent by ruling with Section 199 in mind.
The need to create an agreement
As this case demonstrates, it is important to make clear the basis upon which you are providing money to your child. This should be done whether it is a substantial amount to give your child a leg up when purchasing a home, such as in the case highlighted, or is a much smaller amount intended to help them pay some bills at a time when money is tight for them.
It is a great shame the lady making the claim and her daughter-in-law were not able to resolve this matter amicably, particularly given the tragic circumstances under which the claim was made. Unfortunately, this is increasingly becoming the case though, as the number of inheritance disputes increased by 62% year-on-year between 2018 and 2019 according to The Financial Times.
It is also unusual for this case to have come to court too; There is much publicity attached to probate cases. Most though are settled without needing to go to court.
What you should do
At The Inheritance Experts, we work with specialist legal firms who have a proven track record in handling probate cases. This means they are well-placed to help you get the proportion of the estate you are entitled to. After your initial consultation with our advisors, which is done on a free no-obligation basis, we will match you with the firm that best suits the circumstances of your case.
If you believe you are due a portion of an estate and want to know if you have a viable case, do not hesitate to get in touch with The Inheritance Experts via the contact form on our website or by calling 0161 413 8763.