Fielden, Graham (Executors of Cunliffe deceased) v Cunliffe: CA 6 Dec 2005

The will was executed anticipating the marriage to the respondent, leaving assets on discretionary trusts for the responent and various family members and others. She had come to work for the deceased as his housekeeper, but later they came to marry. The marriage took place about one year before the death.
Held: ‘in relation to claims for financial provision and property adjustment in proceedings between divorced former spouses, the correct approach for the court to adopt, following the decision of the House of Lords in White v White [2001] 1 AC 596 is to apply the statutory provisions to the facts of the individual case with the objective of achieving a result which is fair, and non-discriminatory.’ though ‘there is, self-evidently, a profound difference between a marriage which ends through the death of one of the spouses, and a marriage which ends through divorce.’ Complaint had been made that the judgment given was unstructured and did not explain how the conclusion had been reached. That criticism was correct, and the judgment could not stand. The estate was of sufficient size to satisfy the dependency needs of the other family members, some with disabilities, without the need for recourse to any share which might be payable to the widow. ‘the sum of andpound;600,000 proposed by Wall LJ is not and cannot be the product of a precise calculation. It is, however, for the reasons explained by him, an approximation which involves a departure from starting point of equality of division amply justified by a number of factors: the size of the net estate, Mrs Cunliffe’s reasonable housing and financial needs, her financial resources, in particular her entitlement to andpound;226,000 by survivorship, and the agreement that she will recoup her substantial costs of the proceedings from the estate.
The substituted sum also takes proper account the statutory guidelines to which the court is directed to have regard, in particular Mrs Cunliffe’s age and the very short duration of her marriage to the deceased. The shortness of the marriage limited the opportunities available to Mrs Cunliffe to make a significant contribution to the welfare of the deceased. The size of the amount awarded by the judge indicates that he could not have had any real regard to the short duration of the marriage, there being only a passing mention of the factor in paragraph 49 of his judgment. He noted the factor without attempting to explain what effect it had on his assessment of the lump sum in this case, as compared, for example, with a marriage lasting for 10 or 20 years.
For the above reasons this is one of those unusual cases in which this court is entitled to interfere with the judge’s discretion relating to reasonable financial provision under the 1975 Act. ‘


Mummery LJ, Wall LJ, Moore-Bick LJ


[2005] EWCA Civ 1508, [2006] Ch 361, (2005-06) 8 ITELR 855, [2006] 1 FLR 745, [2006] Fam Law 263, [2006] 2 All ER 115, [2005] 2 WLR 481, [2005] 3 FCR 593, [2006] WTLR 29




Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 1(1)(a)


England and Wales


CitedMeek v City of Birmingham District Council CA 18-Feb-1987
Employment Tribunals to Provide Sufficient Reasons
Tribunals, when giving their decisions, are required to do no more than to make clear their findings of fact and to answer any question of law raised.
Bingham LJ said: ‘It has on a number of occasions been made plain that the decision of an . .
CitedWhite v White HL 26-Oct-2000
The couple going through the divorce each had substantial farms and wished to continue farming. It had been a long marriage.
Held: Where a division of the assets of a family would satisfy the reasonable needs of either party on an ancillary . .
CitedMiller v Miller; M v M (Short Marriage: Clean Break) CA 29-Jul-2005
The parties contested ancillary relief where there had been only a short marriage, but where here were considerable family assets available for division. The wife sought to rely upn the husband’s behaviour to counter any argument as to the shortness . .
CitedEnglish v Emery Reimbold and Strick Ltd; etc, (Practice Note) CA 30-Apr-2002
Judge’s Reasons Must Show How Reached
In each case appeals were made, following Flannery, complaining of a lack of reasons given by the judge for his decision.
Held: Human Rights jurisprudence required judges to put parties into a position where they could understand how the . .

Cited by:

CitedIlott v Mitson and Others CA 31-Mar-2011
The claimant, the estranged adult daughter of the deceased, had claimed under the 1975 Act. The judge made an order for payment of pounds 50,000 by way of capitalisation of maintenance. The claimant appealed saying she should have received more, and . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate, Family

Updated: 04 July 2022; Ref: scu.235723