“Get a Job!”: Disinherited Daughter’s Court Battle Ends in Humiliation
Danielle Ames loses her fight with her stepmother for a share in her late father’s fortune
Ames v Ames: The Outcome
In September, I reported on the court case involving the Ames family, who were at war over the estate of the late Michael Ames. Michael had died leaving a fortune of £1.09million, which he’d left entirely to his second wife Elaine Ames, leaving nothing for his daughter Danielle.
Danielle applied to the court for “reasonable provision for her maintenance” under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, arguing that she and her children were struggling to make ends meet and depended on an inheritance from her late father to survive. She was hoping for a lump sum of £300,000.
Her stepmother Elaine put up a vigorous defence, that she needed every penny of Michael’s estate to provide security in her old age, especially as she was in ill health, and that Michael had deliberately chosen to disinherit Danielle because he believed adult children should work hard to make their own way in the world.
Judge Halpern, the presiding Judge, has since delivered his verdict. Finding in favour of Elaine, he was withering in his criticism of Danielle. The mother-of-two had told the court she 'idolised' her father, and that he had promised her 'it will be all yours one day'. This, per Judge Halpern, was “an exaggeration”, “untrue” and “gilding the lily”. He branded Danielle an “unreliable” witness who was “not above inventing or embellishing facts if she could see no other way of sticking to her story”.
How Judge Halpern Applied the Five Criteria under the 1975 Act
- Considering Elaine and Danielle’s respective financial needs and resources, Judge Halpern decided that Elaine’s needs completely eclipsed Danielle’s. Elaine, he added, was not living the high life, and needed the whole of her husband's estate 'to meet her reasonable needs'.
- Regarding the responsibilities and obligations Michael had towards both Danielle and Elaine, he ruled that Michael had no moral obligation towards Danielle whatsoever.
- Not a great deal of weight was given to the size of the estate. Although this was a large estate, providing plenty to meet the needs of all concerned, Elaine’s needs were considered sacrosanct.
- Probably the most important factor in Judge Halpern’s deliberations was his finding that Elaine was disabled. Elaine’s age and ill-health, combined with his poor opinion of Danielle, appears to have been the clincher.
- There is a fifth, “catch-all” criterion, namely “any other matter the court thinks relevant”, and this is where the Judge delivered Danielle the knockout blow: 'I conclude that her lack of employment is a lifestyle choice. That alone is sufficient to defeat her claim'.
Devastating Consequences for Danielle
The judgement has left Danielle publicly humiliated, and, instead of relieving her financial situation, has made it many times worse.
The Daily Mail branded her “a byword for indolent greed”.
She has been left with legal bills totalling £132,000, including £85,000 to reimburse Elaine’s legal expenses. She was ordered to pay Elaine an interim sum of £34,000 within 14 days of the judgement. Considering that she lives in rented accommodation with her husband and three children, and the family’s outgoings exceed their income by about £2000 a month, the Judge might as well have ordered her to grow wings and fly.
Is this What Michael Ames would have wanted?
Michael Ames’ fortune was founded on a family business started by his first wife’s father, Danielle’s maternal grandfather. Michael's will, endorsed as it is by Judge Halpern, means that grandfather's legacy won’t be passing down the family bloodline. When Elaine dies, she will leave the assets to her own children, who will in turn pass it to their children, and so on.
The effect is that the proceeds of a multi-generational family business have gone, accidentally or on purpose, to another family altogether.
"I went to court because it didn’t seem fair that everything my father had built up should go to Elaine’s family," said Danielle, "Her children and grandchild will inherit what essentially began with my mother’s family, while my children have nothing at all. How can that be considered right?"
Further rubbing salt into Danielle’s wounds is the fact that, while the judge sympathised with Elaine’s disabilities above all other factors, Danielle has been left caring for Michael’s elderly and disabled mother with no financial support whatsoever.
"The judge acted as if I’m sitting at home on my bottom," she said. "But he has no idea. As well as bringing up two children, I am the main carer for my father’s housebound 87-year-old mother and my own mother. I’m always at the beck and call of someone. It is a sad day when being a stay-at-home parent and carer for the family is looked down upon.”
Finally, Danielle is haunted by the suspicion that Michael might have made another, more recent Will, distributing his estate more fairly.
“There remains a niggling feeling in my mind that he might have left another a will in his safe at the shop. I saw him very often because his shop was close to mine and he came for lunch with the children most Saturday afternoons after closing up … it’s hard for me to accept that he would have wanted to see his step family inherit everything. It just does not seem like the way my dad would leave his financial affairs.”
Whose Fault is this Mess?
A family has been permanently estranged. A daughter has suffered public humiliation and financial ruin. £132,000 has been funnelled into the coffers of lawyers.
Although Judge Halpern lays the blame firmly at Danielle’s door, Michael Halpern was the architect of this disaster.
All this suffering was caused by his carelessness, his failure to plan his own and his family’s future properly, his failure to recognise the responsibility that comes with such a large estate, especially one founded on a family business he had married into. This isn't about giving handouts to children, deserving or otherwise. It's about shouldering the responsibility, as head of the family, to protect the family's assets.
What should Michael Ames have done?
First, he should have taken proper estate planning advice. In doing so, he would have learnt that he didn’t have to make a binary choice, between providing for his wife or his daughter, leaving the other in the lurch. He would have discovered that a Family Trust Will would have enabled him to provide security for his wife for the rest of her life, whilst ensuring that the assets were protected for the eventual benefit of his daughter and grandchildren.
Second, he shouldn’t have left it so late! Michael Ames was aged just 63 when he died. He was a relatively young man. This illustrates that making a proper estate planning isn’t an activity reserved for “old people”.
Third, he should have discussed his intentions openly and honestly with his while family; not just Elaine, but Danielle and his grandsons too. This would have averted so much suspicion and heartache after his death.
Finally, if there was any risk of underhand behaviour, he should have ensured that his will was properly stored by a professional, and that both Elaine and Danielle were clear about where it was stored. This would have removed the niggling suspicions that are now only adding to Danielle’s pain.
For further guidance on how you can avoid making Michael Ames’s mistakes, just give us a call on 0151 601 5399 or fill in the contact form below - we’re here to help.
Coronavirus - a message from the heart
The impact of the Coronavirus crisis is really beginning to bite. This is my pledge to help if you're worried and feel the need to quickly have your affairs in order.Read more...
Video Blog - How to Protect your House from Care Fees
This is the biggest issue for more mature parents whose kids have flown the nest - how can we save the kids' inheritance from being wiped out by care fees?Read more...
Video Blog: How to Pay for a Funeral Without Going Into Debt
It's a terrible time when you've just been bereaved, and the last thing you need is practical worries about paying for the funeral.Read more...
A Scary Story! Video Blog
My video explaining how a simple keystroke error almost cost someone their £100k+ inheritance … and what easy action you can take to safeguard yourself against such a thing happening to you.Read more...
Older Childless People “Dangerously Unsupported”
More than a million childless people aged 65 or above are living with dangerously inadequate levels of support, suffering isolation and lack of access to formal care - and that number is expected to double by 2030.Read more...
Taking the Long View
You need to make an estate plan to truly future-proof your family. Here's why, and how to go about it.Read more...
Brexit Turmoil Delivers Reprieve for Bereaved Families
At last, a tiny bright spot amongst the relentless Brexit related misery.Read more...
£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.Read more...
What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away
When you lose someone, the last thing you want is to think about the practicalities, but there are some essential steps you must take to safeguard the estate and ensure that it is passed down as smoothly as possible.Read more...
Estate Planning Essentials for Same-Sex Couples
How to avoid the four most common estate planning pitfalls that can affect same-sex couples.Read more...
D’Oh! Five Ways to Seriously Mess Up Your Estate Plan
If financial security and peace of mind for your nearest and dearest is your priority, it’s essential that you maintain a valid and up to date estate plan.Read more...
Talking About Estate Planning with your Parents
Have your Mum & Dad made their estate plan yet? Should you be concerned?Read more...
What About Your Digital legacy?
How to plan for what will happen to all your online accounts after you’ve gone.Read more...
Don’t let your business get clobbered!
It’s your responsibility to safeguard your business. Here’s how to do it in three easy steps.Read more...
Cost of Care Rises by 10% in Just One Year
The cost of a place in a care home is rising at its fastest rate ever, while pension incomes have little hope of keeping pace.Read more...
Hats off to the “Parentsioners”!
Look around, and you’ll notice you're surrounded by people who quietly go about their daily business of achieving seemingly impossible feats of hard work and organisation. You might be looking at just such a person in the mirror.Read more...
Contested Will Saga Ends in Prison Sentence
A retired window cleaner, who was left £280,000 in the will of a customer, was jailed for failing to hand back the money when ordered.Read more...
Will Inheritance Tax be Simplified?
The Office for Tax Simplification is reviewing the complex Inheritance Tax system. Does this mean there will there be less tax to pay?Read more...
Daughters try to block father’s marriage
Court of Protection forced to decide whether daughters can lawfully block their father’s marriage to his partner of 20 years.Read more...
Three Brothers in Court Battle Over their Mother’s Legacy
The three Heath brothers have already incurred £50,000 in court costs because they didn't have the awkward family conversation about inheritance.Read more...
We Need to Talk About Inheritance
With inherited wealth set to double in the next 20 years, it’s time to get over the awkwardness and have the conversation now.Read more...
Inheritance Tax Bonanza for HMRC
A 23% spike in Inheritance Tax receipts is being blamed on frozen allowances, rising house prices and more aggressive tax collection.Read more...
Dementia Tax – Some Good News?
Cautious optimism as Health Secretary vows to bring forward plans to make paying for care fairer.Read more...
The Tragic Case of “Mr Y”
52-year-old "Mr Y" is being kept alive in a coma while the Official Solicitor defends legal principles.Read more...
Can the Government be Trusted on the Dementia Tax?
Little has been said about the cost of care since the 2017 Dementia Tax controversy. But the few hints dropped by the government have both insulted and threatened parents of adult children.Read more...
Power of Attorney Refunds Available
If you paid £110 to register your Lasting Power of Attorney between 1st April 2013 and 31st March 2017, you are entitled to a refund of up to £54.Read more...
Case Study: Jim and Jean’s Story
Jim and Jean have two grown-up children with complex disabilities. Here’s how their estate plan met their needs.Read more...
The £50million Final Salary Pension Transfer Boom
Here’s why so many savers are moving away from their final salary pension schemes? And why your pension capital should be a key consideration in your estate plan.Read more...
Just how risky are Lasting Powers of Attorney?
An invaluable tool? Or a passport to financial abuse?Read more...
Case Study: Guy and Steve Safeguard their BusinessRead more...
Sheila Kitzinger’s Good Death
Sheila Kitzinger, a passionate advocate for the rights of expectant mothers, pioneered the use of birth plans. And she brought the same control and empowerment to planning her own final days.Read more...
We’re Not Getting Any Older
Life expectancy at age 64 has all but ground to halt, due to the austerity years and a surge in dementia. What can you do for yourself while we wait for a cure?Read more...
Lynda Bellingham’s Sons Betrayed, as Feared
The late Lynda Bellingham’s lack of a proper estate plan risked leaving her sons with nothing – now her widower has done exactly what she least wanted him to do.Read more...
Probate: What’s it all about?
If you are dealing for the first time with the estate of someone who has died, you must quickly get to grips with some probably unfamiliar concepts. This is a short introduction to the issues you may have to deal with.Read more...
Redefining old age?
Seismic demographic changes mean we must re-think what it means to be “old”, says one of the UK’s leading social scientists.Read more...
Case Study: Ray & Joyce
How this retired couple made sure most of their main asset would be inherited by their children – and not the council.Read more...
Business Property Relief
If you are a business owner, it’s likely that your business is one of your main assets. You may want to pass your business to the next generation as a going concern, or you may want your dependants to benefit from the value of the business after you’ve gone.Read more...
Seven Inheritance Tax Tips for Buy to Let Investors
If you’ve invested in buy-to-let, you’ve probably done so with the intention of creating a steady income for yourself, together with capital to hand on to the next generation when you’re gone. But unfortunately, wealth tied up in residential lettings often comes with a significant Inheritance Tax burden.Read more...
The Residence Nil Rate Band
A guide to making the most of the new Inheritance Tax allowance.Read more...
Case Study: Tony and Diane’s Story
How Tony and Diane secured an Inheritance-Tax-free legacy for their daughter and planned a secure retirement for themselves.Read more...
What’s all this fuss about The Dementia Tax?
It’s odd that there has been so much vociferous debate about “the dementia tax”, as if this is an outrageous new concept proposed by a rapacious government. The truth is that people with dementia have been robbed of their legacy for decades to pay for their care.Read more...
Separating Elderly Couples in Care is Inhumane
It's scary that Social Care leaders actually had to be told at a recent conference that separating elderly couples in care is inhumane.Read more...
Inheritance Tax Planning with Enterprise Investment Schemes
Not keen on the government gate-crashing your funeral to demand yet more tax? An Enterprise Investment Scheme may be a useful addition to your estate planning toolkit.Read more...
Sons’ Inheritance Blown on Legal Fees
Two brothers have wasted their entire inheritance on a doomed court battle to contest their late father’s will.Read more...
Helping your Parents to Cope
The Guardian newspaper recently published a helpful group discussion, in which readers shared their own experiences of what has worked for them in offering a helping hand when a parent is finding it all too much.Read more...
The Supreme Court’s Decision in Heather Ilott’s case.
The 2015 Court of Appeal Decision in Heather Ilott’s case has been overturned. The Court of Appeal’s 2015 award of £163,000 has been reduced to £50,000.Read more...
Charitable Legacies - a Win-Win
Leaving a charitable legacy in your Will makes you feel good AND gets you an Inheritance Tax discount – what’s not to love?Read more...
Our friend died without saying she’d left us £110k
The rate at which estates go unclaimed has risen two and a half times in the last five years, according to government figures recently released.Read more...
Who gets the kids if something happens to us?
It’s a horrible thought, isn’t it? Nobody wants to imagine their beloved child being orphaned, but thinking about the unthinkable, and making proper plans, is a vital parental responsibility.Read more...
Is Your Child’s Inheritance Divorce-Proof?
Doreen Crowther may lose her house because her inheritance wasn't divorce-proofed.Read more...
Planning for the Cost of Care
Will poor health in later life put your home at risk?Read more...
Status Quo Rocker Rick Parfitt Disinherited his Wife
The late Status Quo star Rick Parfitt disinherited his wife in the final days before he died, it has emerged. But all is not as it seems.Read more...
My Health Scare - and why I’m so glad I made an Estate Plan
My New Year was overshadowed by a major health scare – but my estate plan assured me that, whatever might happen, my clients and loved ones are protectedRead more...
Your New Year’s Resolution?
If you haven't made your will yet, you risk leaving a mess behind for the people you love.Read more...
George Michael’s Estate Plan
Much missed pop legend provides for his sisters, god-children and favourite charities in his WillRead more...
Our 2017 Continuing Professional Development Programme
Our 2017 Estate Planning Training Programme for Accountants and Financial Services ProfessionalsRead more...
How a £2000 Inheritance Transformed 40,000 lives
Vashti Seth started a charity with a legacy from her dadRead more...
The £72million House Heist
Councils’ £72million raid on older people’s houses to pay for careRead more...
Royle Family’s Caroline Aherne Accidentally Left Her Mum with a £71,000 Inheritance Tax Bill
Inheritance Tax stress for Caroline Aherne's bereaved MumRead more...
“Get a Job!”: Disinherited Daughter’s Court Battle Ends in Humiliation
Danielle Ames loses her fight with her stepmother for a share in her late father’s fortuneRead more...
Danae Brook’s Story: A Blended Family Blighted by Intestacy
How Danae’s husband’s intestacy left this blended family in chaos.Read more...
The Truth about Deliberate Deprivation of Capital
Thinking about making a significant gift to your children? Worried that the council might snatch back the gift if you later go into a care home? Here’s what you need to know.Read more...
Disinherited Daughter v Stepmother
Disinherited Danielle Ames in Court Battle with her Stepmother over her "Idolised" Late Father's FortuneRead more...
Is the Traditional Marriage an Endangered Species?
In a major cultural shift, married couples are now in the minority as most couples choose to cohabit. Is this the beginning of the end for traditional marriage?Read more...
Video Blog - Inheritance Tax and You
Will my estate be affected by Inheritance Tax?Read more...
The Hurt and Rejection of Daisy Goodwin
It's every parent's responsibility to talk to their children about the legacy they might leaveRead more...
Trusts to Manage Inheritance Tax – One Rule for The Duke of Westminster and One for the Rest of Us?
The toxic urban myth that Inheritance Tax is for "the little people".Read more...
Toby Wales’s Story
The power of wills to transform lives for the better.Read more...
Heartache and Chaos from a Lost Will
Alison Shields tells of the distressing consequences of her father's lost will.Read more...
Father’s fear of making a will left his young daughter penniless
How Katy Young was accidentally disinherited by her father's fear of making a will.Read more...
Property tycoon sued beyond the grave.
Ex-civil partner of deceased millionairess in court bid for larger settlementRead more...
Stepfamilies & Blended Families Estate and Legacy Planning
A video guide for people who have stepfamilies or blended familiesRead more...
Frugal Bachelor Leaves Surprise Legacy of £1.5million to his Local Hospital
Heartwarming Generosity of Peter GibbonsRead more...
Case Study - How Dervla’s Inheritance Tax Planning Saved £120k
In today’s climate, “fail to plan” means “plan to pay lots of Inheritance Tax”Read more...
Video Blog - Estate Planning Tips for Business Owners
A Video Guide to Keeping your Business ResilientRead more...
Angela Rippon – a Happy Singleton Putting her Affairs in Order
In advance of the BBC documentary "The Truth About Dementia", Angela Rippon shares her concerns.Read more...
“Do Not Resuscitate” – Could this Happen to You Without your Consent?
The NHS knows that it's happening - and why it's happening - but won't be doing anything about it anytime soon. Here's how to protect yourself and your family.Read more...
The 8 Vital Questions You Should Answer Before You Make a Will or Estate Plan
How to choose an estate plan that's fit for purpose and within your budgetRead more...
Estate Planning Tips for Happy Singletons
This is an estate planning guide for single people - what you, as a happy singleton, can do to plan a secure future and a meaningful legacy.Read more...
Oxo Mum’s Family Torn Asunder by a Badly Made Will
How poor estate planning has left the late Loose Women star’s sons powerless – and possibly penniless.Read more...
Case Study - Bill and Anne, Buy to Let Investors
How we helped a couple ensure a secure future for theselves, their family and their buy to let portfolioRead more...
Estate Planning Considerations for Buy to Let Investors
This is the first in a two-part series that looks at the estate planning concerns of buy to let investors - and some of the many available solutions.Read more...
Come Live with Me and Be my Love ....
Five practical tips for living together securelyRead more...
Colin and Eleanor’s Story - Peace of Mind for Four Generations
This is the story of Colin and Eleanor, great-grandparents who wanted the peace of mind of knowing their assets were protected for the four generations of their family, and that their own personal wishes were respected no matter whatRead more...
Soaring Probate Fees - a Stealth Tax
The Ministry of Justice has announced a fee scale that increases the cost of probate by up to 130 times the present fee. Here are some ways of managing the cost of leaving a legacy for your family, so their inheritance is maximised.Read more...
Joy Williams’ Legal Battle - And Her Lessons for Couples Living Together
Joy Williams has won an exhausting, four-year court battle to save her home – but it could all have been avoidedRead more...
How a £90 Will Cost a Daughter Half a House
Ebenezer Aregbesola used a low-cost will-writing service to prepare his will - consequently a crucial loophole was missed, which robbed his daughter of her inheritance.Read more...
Making Your Child’s Inheritance Divorce-Proof
Marriage isn't always forever - is there a way to protect your child's inheritance from the consequences of a divorce?Read more...
How A Blunder Over Geography Led to a High Court Battle Over a Scientist’s Will.
A High Court battle between The Royal Society and an eminent scientist's family centred on the meaning of the phrase "United Kingdom".Read more...
Twice the Maternal love, but Twice the Inheritance Tax Burden
The Utley family have shared in the national press their heart-warming story of sisterly devotion, and their worries about the way a wholly unexpected turn of events has placed them in a dilemma they’re unsure how to solve. Here are some potential solutions.Read more...
Guest Blog - Building a Secure Future with ISA’s
This guest blog is brought to you by Neil Ridpath, an Independent Financial Advisor with Neil J Ridpath Wealth Management Limited. A fundamental part of planning for yours and your family’s financial security is making the most of your assets. Here, Neil tells us about Individual Savings Accounts, and why they are such a useful tool for getting the best return form your hard-earned savings.Read more...
Standing Up for the “Mustn’t Grumble” Generation.
Recent reports suggest that older people are getting a raw deal in many aspects of life, because they generally don't like to complain. How can we make sure older people receive the great service they deserve?Read more...
Seize the Day! Overcoming Procrastination about Protecting your Legacy
How to overcome the impulse to put off important decision, like protecting your legacy.Read more...
Self employed? Here’s how to safeguard your business and your family
If you're self-employed, your business can be your greatest asset and your greatest responsibility - here's how to keep it safe. come what mayRead more...
“Inheritance Tax is too toxic to save”, says The Fabian Society
The Nation is almost unanimously opposed to Inheritance Tax - but abolition is unlikely so we must fight back in other ways.Read more...
Advance Care Planning - Staring Into the Abyss or Taking Back Control?
Considering an Advance Directive takes some courage - but brings peace of mind for you and your family.Read more...
Don’t Mind the Council Inheriting your House? Then Go Ahead and Make Basic Mirror Wills
The potential price of making simple mirror wills.Read more...
Why leaving your estate to your other half can be a terrible mistake
The risks in making straightforward Mirror Wills.Read more...
Subscribe for Updates & Information
"Can I just say on behalf of Paula, Peter, myself & our children, a huge thank you for everything. You have always listened, and been a friend as well. Thanks Gina, for your professionalism, compassion and support, we really appreciate everything you have done for us."
Angela Kearns & Family