Inheritance Act - what is "maintenance"?

(Nicholas Lepoidevin) #1

A novel point on the I(PFD)A 1975 has been decided in Lewis v. Warner [2016] EWHC 1787 (Ch). An elderly cohabitant survived his partner; he was comfortably off but, not being in the best of health, he wanted to stay in her house, where he had been happy and where he had a doctor for a neighbour, and to avoid the upheaval of a move. Could the court direct the grant of an option in his favour to acquire the house at full value?

The court said that though an order for a claimant’s “maintenance” under s. 1(2)(b) would usually involve a net transfer of value from the estate to the claimant, it did not have to do so. Maintenance might extend to an arrangement for full consideration. Hence the court could direct the grant of the option.

Note that the claimant had standing to apply under s. 1(1)(ba) and (1A), being a cohabitant. The decision does not expand the category of dependant within s. 1(1)(e) (a person who “immediately before the death of the deceased was being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the deceased”). That is because the definition of maintenance for that purpose (see s. 1(3)) excludes arrangements for full consideration.

Nicholas Le Poidevin, Q.C.
New Square Chambers