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Granddaughter carer in legal challenge over grandmother’s Will

Granddaughter carer in legal challenge over grandmother’s Will

£110,000 for seven years of care

A court has awarded £110,000 to a granddaughter who provided devoted live-in care for her grandmother for seven years.

Lynsey Delaforte took redundancy from her job to move in with her grandmother and provide 24-hour care rather than see her taken into a care home. In doing so, Lynsey saved her family from a desperate situation, because the court heard that her grandmother Joan Flood had been a challenging lady with complex needs, who was exceptionally difficult to care for. Lindsay was found to have given care above and beyond the services a professional carer would have provided.

During the seven years that she cared for her grandmother, Lynsey cooked and cleaned for her, dressed her, made sure she ate, took her to her numerous hospital appointments and looked after her in the most loving and devoted way 24 hours a day. In return she received room and board and a small allowance of £100 a month to supplement her state benefits.

Mrs Flood had made a Will in 2006, leaving her substantial estate to her two children, namely Lynsey‘s mother Annette and Uncle Paul. In the intervening years, despite recognising her granddaughter’s devotion, Mrs Flood did not update her Will to include any provision for her. Consequently, when Mrs Flood died in 2016, Lynsey was left with nothing.

A legal battle ensues

Lynsey, by then in her mid-30s, challenged the Will, relying on the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, arguing that her grandmother should have made “reasonable financial provision” for her in her Will. Her mother supported the case, but her Uncle Paul opposed it. Her uncle argued that the arrangement between Mrs Flood and Lynsey was “commercial” in nature, and that Lynsey had herself been rescued from a dull and unsatisfying job by the chance to work as her grandmother’s full-time carer.

During a hard-fought three-day trial, Lynsey’s “financially comfortable” uncle eventually conceded under cross-examination that Lynsey had done a very good job of taking care of his mother, and that it had not been a commercial arrangement after all, admitting that Lynsey had devoted herself to her grandmother not for money but for love.

Finding in Lindsay’s favour, the judge concluded that Lynsey’s devotion had given rise to a moral obligation on her grandmother’s part to provide for Lynsey in her Will. In awarding her the sum of £110,000, the judge made it clear that the sum was not in payment for care provided but represented the reasonable financial provision for Lindsay’s maintenance that her grandmother ought to have included in her Will.

Lynsey has pledged to use the award as working capital to start her own business. A trained ballet dancer, she intends to start a dance teaching business.

Was this fair?

A seven year stay in a care home would have reduced Lynsey’s mother and uncle’s inheritance by up to £280,000. So, although her Uncle Paul clearly saw things differently, Lynsey’s contribution greatly enhanced his inheritance, even after deduction of the award. He may have been left with as little as £185,000 had his mother been cared for in a residential home, instead of the £259,000 available to him thanks to Lynsey’s care.

Of course, a substantial chunk of Paul’s inheritance will be used up in legal fees. As the party on the losing side of the case, he will probably foot the bill for both his own and Lynsey’s lawyers. But that is the gamble you take when you defend any case to trial, and Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 cases are notoriously unpredictable, raising the risks, and the stakes, considerably.

Was this a one-off?

It would not surprise me if cases like Lynsey’s arose more frequently in future. The staggering cost of residential care these days - up to £40,000 per annum in some parts of the country – makes it a very attractive option for families to rely on one member to provide live-in care to their parent or grandparent in the interests of preserving assets. If the Will does not make adequate provision for the caregiving family member, challenges like Lynsey’s are likely to ensue.  It’s certainly an important issue that we should all take into account when cosidering later life and planning for the cost of care.

If you’re trying to address the cost of care in your estate plan, but don't know where to start, support is just a call or email away. Ring us on 0151 601 5399 or fill in the contact form below and we’ll point you in the right direction.

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