Thompson v Ragget & Ors (Rev 1), Court of Appeal - Chancery Division, March 29, 2018, [2018] EWHC 688 (Ch)

Issuing Organization:Chancery Division
Actores:Thompson v Ragget & Ors (Rev 1)
Resolution Date:March 29, 2018
 
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Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWHC 688 (Ch)

Case No: D30CF067

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

CHANCERY DIVISION

In the estate of Wynford Hodge

And in the matter of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975

Cardiff Civil and Family Justice Centre

2 Park Street, Cardiff CF10 1ET

Date: 29/03/2018

Before :

HIS HONOUR JUDGE JARMAN QC

Between :

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Mr Alex Troup (instructed by Hugh James) for the claimant

Mr Malcom Warner (instructed by JNP Legal) for the fourth and fifth defendants

The first second and third defendants with permission did not appear

Hearing dates: 21 March 2018

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Judgment ApprovedHH JUDGE JARMAN QC :

  1. The claimant Joan Thompson claims reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 out of the estate of her late partner, Wynford Hodge, who died on 4 February 2017 in his 90s. His last will, of many, was dated 19 December 2016 (the last will). Thereunder, he appointed as his executors the directors in the firm of solicitors who drew up the will, who are the first to third defendants and who have remained neutral in these proceedings. He gave his substantial estate after payment of expenses and debts to the fourth and fifth defendants, Karla Evans and Agon Berisha. They were tenants of one of his properties known as Penffordd, Narbeth, Pembrokeshire, which they had occupied since early 2015.

  2. The last will made no provision for Mrs Thompson. He gave his reasons in a letter of wishes dated the same day, as follows:

    ``In my Will I have specifically made no provision for my partner, Joan Thompson and her children, Gary, Lee, Dean and Sharon. I currently have no contact with Joan's children. I have no issue with Gary, but I have concerns regarding Lee, Dean and Sharon and do not trust them. I feel that they have previously taken advantage of me and have already received/taken monies from me during my lifetime. I do not want Joan or her children to inherit from my estate.''

  3. He then went on to give some instances to justify that mistrust before continuing:

    ``I no longer want to leave my residuary estate on trust to pay the income to Joan for her life as this would be a substantial sum and I do not believe she will need it. Also due to Joan's health I believe she would not be able to live in my property independently. I am Joan's main carer and envisage she may have to go in to a home following my death. I confirm Joan has her own finances and is financially comfortable. Joan has her own money and her own savings.''

  4. The net estate was valued for probate purposes as £1,535,060. Valuations were obtained of various properties in the estate. These valued Penffordd at £343,000, Parsonage Farm and Caravan Park, also at Amroth, at £545,000, an adjoining bungalow called Parsonage Bungalow at £157,000, an adjoining cottage called Elidyr Cottage at £225,000, and a small parcel of land at £5,000. Farm machinery and vehicles were valued at £62,625. The latest estate accounts show that there is a balance of liquid assets for distribution in the amount of £168,000.

  5. There is little if any factual dispute in these proceedings. Mr Hodge and Ms Thompson had lived together as man and wife for some 42 years prior to his death. She was financially dependent upon him throughout that time and at his death. Accordingly, she is entitled as a cohabitee under section 1(1) (ba) or a dependent (e) of the 1975 to claim that the last will did not make reasonable financial provision for her. In either case, that means under section 1(2) such financial provision as it would be reasonable in all circumstances of the case for her to receive for her maintenance.

  6. In the mid-1970s Ms Thompson and her son Dean, then a young boy, moved into a caravan at Parsonage Farm, and then shortly afterwards into the farmhouse with Mr Hodge and his mother. She worked on the farm and in the caravan site business without pay. She helped care for his mother, then in her eighties, for some two or three years before Mrs Hodge passed away.

  7. As Mr Hodge and Mrs Thompson grew older each had health issues which needed care and each relied on the other to provide care. Mrs Thompson had a serious stroke about 12 years ago and has had heart attacks since. She accepts that in the last few years that she needed more care than he did. However, she helped him whenever she could, for example by helping him dress, wash and shave after a hip replacement some years ago. In about 2015 she had a serious fall and after discharge from hospital social services were concerned that the conditions in the farmhouse were not appropriate for her to live in, and so she went to live in a local nursing home. However, Mr Hodge wanted her home and so the couple moved into a caravan near to the farmhouse.

  8. In 2016, Mr Hodge bought Elidyr Cottage with a view to moving into it with Mrs Thompson. Towards the end of that year however, Mr Hodge who had a long-standing diagnosis of prostate cancer, had increasing bouts of bladder problems and urinary infections. In December that year he was admitted to hospital. During Mrs Thompson's visits he told her not to worry as she would be well looked after. It was not long after discharge that he was admitted again for a burst cyst which led to his death.

  9. Since then Mrs Thompson has returned to live at the nursing home. She has modest savings, which now amount to some £2,500. Her only income consists of a state benefit and disability living allowance totalling £1,114 per month.

  10. The most up to date medical evidence of Mrs Thompson's health comes from a letter from her GP dated 12 June 2017 to her solicitors which says:

    ``I saw Joan and her daughter in law this afternoon to discuss the matter of her intention to reside outside of Park House Court Nursing Home. As a result of these discussions I am able to inform you that this lady retains sufficient medical health not to require the facilities of a nursing home. She is certainly fit enough to reside in private accommodation with a relevant social care package. Furthermore, she retains the capacity to make this decision. I would also add that it is in her best interests that she does retain as much independence...

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