In re Coventry dec’d: ChD 2 Jan 1979

The court set out the general approach to applications under the 1975 Act: ‘these matters have to be considered at two stages – first in determining the reasonableness of such provision (if any) as has been made by the deceased for the applicant’s maintenance and, secondly, in determining the extent to which the court should exercise its powers under the Act if, but only if, it is satisfied that reasonable provision for the applicant’s maintenance has not been made.’ and as to applications by adult children: ‘I ought not to approach this application with any pre-conceived notion that there is some especially heavy burden on a male applicant of full age beyond that which must, as a practical matter, necessarily exist when a person who applies to be maintained by somebody else is already capable of adequately maintaining himself.’ and
and ‘It is not the purpose of the Act to provide legacies or awards for meritorious conduct. Subject to the court’s powers under the Act and to fiscal demands, an Englishman still remains at liberty at his death to dispose of his own property in whatever way he pleases or, if he chooses to do so, to leave that disposition to be regulated by the laws of intestate succession. In order to enable the court to interfere with and reform those dispositions it must, in my judgment, be shown, not that the deceased acted unreasonably, but that, looked at objectively, his disposition or lack of disposition produces an unreasonable result in that it does not make any or any greater provision for the applicant – and that means, in the case of an applicant other than a spouse for that applicant’s maintenance. It clearly cannot be enough to say that the circumstances are such that if the deceased had made a particular provision for the applicant, that would not have been an unreasonable thing for him to do and therefore it now ought to be done. The court has no carte blanche to reform the deceased’s dispositions or those which statute makes of his estate to accord with what the court itself might have thought would be sensible if it had been in the deceased’s position. . . It cannot be enough to say ‘here is a son of the deceased: he is in necessitous circumstances: there is property of the deceased which could be made available to assist him but which is not available if the deceased’s dispositions stand; therefore those dispositions do not make reasonable provision for the applicant’ There must, as it seems to me, be established some sort of moral claim by the applicant to be maintained by the deceased or at the expense of his estate beyond the mere fact of a blood relationship, some reason why it can be said that, in the circumstances, it is unreasonable that no or no greater provision was in fact made.’
The court considered what was meant by ‘maintenance’: ‘There have been a number of cases under the Inheritance (Family Provision) Act 1938 previously in force, and also some cases from sister jurisdictions, which have dealt with the meaning of ‘maintenance.’ In particular, in this country there is In re E., decd. [1966] 1 W.L.R 709 in which Stamp J. said that the purpose was not to keep a person above the breadline but to provide reasonable maintenance in all the circumstances. If I may say so with respect, ‘breadline’ there would be more accurately described as ‘subsistence level.’ Then there was Millward v. Shenton [1972] 1 W.L.R. 711 in this court. I think I need only refer to one of the overseas reports, In re Duranceau [1952] 3 D.L.R. 714, 720, where, in somewhat poetic language, the court said that the question is: ‘Is the provision sufficient to enable the dependant to live neither luxuriously nor miserably, but decently and comfortably according to his or her station in life?’
What is proper maintenance must in all cases depend upon all the facts and circumstances of the particular case being considered at the time, but I think it is clear on the one hand that one must not put too limited a meaning on it; it does not mean just enough to enable a person to get by; on the other hand, it does not mean anything which may be regarded as reasonably desirable for his general benefit or welfare.’

Oliver J
[1979] 2 All ER 408, [1981] Ch 461
Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
England and Wales
DisapprovedRe Christie (deceased) 1979
In an application under the 1975 Act, the judge treated maintenance as being equivalent to providing for the well-being or benefit of the applicant.
Mr Vivian Price QC said: ‘ ‘although reasonable financial provision means provision for the . .

Cited by:
Appeal from (Affirmed)In Re Coventry (deceased) CA 3-Jan-1979
The deceased’s adult son sought provision from the intestate estate. The sole beneficiary under the rules was the plaintiff’s mother. The estate was modest; the intestate’s interest in his house (he had been living there with the plaintiff). The . .
CitedSnapes v Aram; Wade etc, In re Hancocks (Deceased) CA 1-May-1998
The adult daughter of the deceased claimed under the 1975 Act. The deceased had acted entirely reasonably in leaving his business land to those of his children who were active in the business, but after his death part of the land acquired a . .
ExplainedHarlow v National Westminster Bank Plc and Others; in re Jennings Dec CA 13-Dec-1993
The adult non-dependent son of the deceased claimed provision from his father’s estate. He had been separated from his father since being a young child, and had received almost nothing. He was a married adult son living with his family in . .
CitedGoodchild and Another v Goodchild CA 2-May-1997
The deceased and his wife made wills in virtually identical form. The husband changed his will after their divorce, but his son and other wife claimed that the couple had intended the wills to be part of a larger arrangement of their affairs, . .
CitedRe Dennis deceased ChD 1981
The courts have declined to define the word ‘maintenance’ closely. ‘Maintenance’ connotes only those payments which will directly or indirectly enable the applicant in the future to discharge the cost of his daily living at whatever standard of . .
CitedPhizackerley v Revenue and Customs SCIT 14-Feb-2007
The deceased husband had been the sole wage earner. On retirement he bought a house which was placed in his and his wife’s name. They then severed the joint tenancy and created wills trusts each leaving their share in trust for the survivor. After . .
CitedBahouse and Another v Negus CA 28-Feb-2008
The court heard a renewed application for leave to appeal against an order in an action under the 1975 Act. The executors said that the judge had erred in law in his interpretation of what was meant by ‘maintenance’.
Held: Appeals under the . .
CitedGarland v Morris and Another ChD 11-Jan-2007
The claimant sought additional provision from her father’s estate. She said that the will failed to make reasonable provsion for her, bearing in mind her extreme financial needs. She was a single mother of three.
Held: The claim failed. . .
CitedIlott v The Blue Cross and Others SC 15-Mar-2017
What is reasonable provision for daughter
The deceased had left her estate in her will to several animal charities. The claimant, her daughter, had been estranged from her mother for many years, and sought reasonable provision from her estate under the 1975 Act. The district judge had . .
CitedIn re Dennis (Deceased) 1981
The now deceased father had made lifetime gifts to the son. The son now faced substantial liabilities for capital transfer tax, and asked the court to provide for his from the estate under the 1975 Act.
Held: The claim failed. The payment of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Wills and Probate

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.197022