Disabled claimant to be evicted from cohabitant’s home without capital award

A 65-year-old disabled man has been awarded a life interest in half the proceeds of the sale of his now-deceased cohabitant’s house, to be spent on alternative accommodation for him.

Mrs Sarah Campbell (a widow) died in October 2015, leaving most of her estate to her only child James. However, at the date of her death she was cohabiting with Andrew Banfield, who had moved in with her some years after her husband died in 1992. The exact date of commencement of the cohabitation was disputed by Mrs Campbell’s son. There was some evidence that the couple had regarded themselves as engaged, though apparently they did not share a bed in the final few years before her death.

Mrs Campbell’s will left Banfield a legacy of £5,000, describing him in the text as her ‘friend’. However, by the time of her death, Banfield was himself 63 and partly disabled. His net annual income after tax was about £30,000. The house he had shared with her was to be inherited by her son, and very probably sold, leaving him homeless. He duly made a claim for reasonable provision from her estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. His claim, based on his housing needs of a ground floor maisonette with garden in the expensive London suburb of Thames Ditton, was £450,000. Mrs Campbell’s son James argued that this was excessive and that only £220,000 was needed to provide Banfield with a suitable flat.

In the event, the High Court refused to confer any of the estate’s capital on Banfield. The judge cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ilott v Blue Cross (2017 UKSC 17) that the sole purpose of the 1975 Act is to provide maintenance during the claimant’s lifetime. If housing is provided by way of 1975 Act maintenance, said the judge in the Ilott judgment, it is likely to be provided by way of a life interest rather than a capital sum.

Also there were two special circumstances in this case. Firstly Mrs Campbell had inherited the property from her late husband before the start of her relationship with Banfield. Secondly Banfield’s housing requirements were relatively expensive, requiring 50% or more of the estate. Thus it was appropriate to make provision for housing by way of a life interest to avoid conferring capital and to avoid depriving James Campbell of the capital that would otherwise pass to him.

The judge accordingly ordered that Mrs Campbell’s house be sold and that Banfield by granted a life interest in one half of the net proceeds of sale, to be used in or towards providing alternative accommodation for him. In addition, he directed that a fund of £20,000 should be kept available within the estate in case the property purchased by Banfield needed specific adaptation to meet his mobility needs (Banfield v Campbell, 2018 WHC 1943 Ch).

Lindsey Sharples is a solicitor in the private client team at Barker Gotelee, Solicitors in Suffolk.

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