Widow Brings Claim Against Husbands Estate Under The 1975 Act
In the recent High Court case of Dellal v Dellal and Others  EWHC 907 Fam the High Court declined to strike out a family provision claim brought against the Estate of Jack Dellal, by his widow Ruanne Dellal, on the basis that there may be evidence that considerable resources of the Deceased’s were held in trust.
Jack Dellal died in October 2012 aged 89 and had been a successful property developer. His Will executed in 2006 left the majority of his Estate to his widow. However the value of the Estate declared for the purposes of the inheritance tax return amounted to £15.4 million, which included minimal cash and no business assets. His wife claimed this was only a tiny fraction of his true Estate, with most of his assets being held in secret Trusts, bank accounts and gifts to children.
The Sunday Times Rich List had previously estimated Mr Dellal’s wealth at £445 million in 2012. Mrs Dellal therefore brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, despite being the main beneficiary of his Estate, relying on sections 8 and 9 of the Act, which deem the deceased’s Estate to comprise the assets at his death, but also any other assets given away within the six years prior to the deceased’s death, with the sole intention of frustrating any claim under the 1975 Act.
Mrs Dellal told the Court that her husband had told her that he had a secret stash of money, believed to be £50 million. He had also transferred shortly after their marriage in 1997 his shares in his business, at the time worth £56.4 million, to his children.
Mr Dellal’s children by his first wife, a partner from an extra matrimonial relationship and his sister, applied to the High Court to have Mrs Dellal’s claim dismissed without a trial, on the basis that she had not indentified any gifts to the Defendants’ within the six years prior to his death, nor that there had been any bad motive as is required under the Act. In any event Mrs Dellal is substantially well off and therefore did not need further financial provision under the Act.
Judge Mostyn declined to strike out her claim, even though he was sceptical about Mrs Dellal’s estimates of her husband’s true wealth, making comment that the evidence that dispositions were made to the Defendants’ were very thin, based entirely on inference and unreliable sources of information.
If it is discovered that these secret trusts exist and were established within the six year time limit, then potentially if the Court finds in Mrs Dellal’s favour, the persons who received any gifts (or the Trustees) may be ordered to give back a sum equivalent to the Estate in order to satisfy Mrs Dellal’s claim. In assisting the Court in coming to such a decision, the Court ordered that the Defendants’ disclose any documents relevant to this and adjourned the application until further disclosure has been made. The application to dismiss Mrs Dellal’s case will then be reconsidered and will be form the subject of a future blog.
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