“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child”

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“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child”

“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child”

The number of claims that are being brought by adult children against the estates of their parents under the Inheritance Act 1975 continues to rise. 

The latest is the case of Miles & Shearer v Shearer which pertained to the estate of Tony Shearer, a former banker, whose two adult daughters from his first marriage sought to bring a claim against his £7m estate that “reasonable financial provision” should be made for them as they had always been financially dependent on their father.

Mr Shearer’s second wife (who was his primary beneficiary and the Defendant) gave evidence that the daughters were only interested in their father for his money quoting King Lear – “sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child”. 

The Court concluded that the children’s case had no merit and that Mr Shearer had no obligation or responsibility towards them at the time of his death. 

The three main reasons for the Court’s decision were:

  1. Whilst they enjoyed an affluent lifestyle until their parents divorced, the daughters were not entitled to expect the same standard of living indefinitely and indeed the Court found that they did not enjoy that lifestyle at present and had not since they had both married. Further the Court took into account the fact that the children are now 40 and 39 years old respectively with one child working in a well-paid job and the other with potential to earn in her field.
  2. Mr Shearer made generous gifts to them in 2008 which he advised they use to invest as the gifts would be deemed to be their legacy. He specifically told them in writing that he would not provide them with any further financial assistance.
  3. The children were not beneficiaries under Mr Shearer’s mirror Will with his wife and, therefore, they had no entitlement on his death.

This case highlights the ongoing difficulty of success in cases brought forward by adult children against a parent’s estate unless they can evidence that the parents were actively responsible for their maintenance – which neither Claimant managing to prove this.

Get in touch

If you have any queries relating to this article, or require any advice on contentious probate, please contact Karen Young. This article was prepared by Batuhan Bikim

All information in this update is accurate at the time of writing. It is meant for general information only and is not legal advice.