04 August 2015

How much is too little? Widow applies for reasonable provision after being left £15 million estate

In Dellal v Dellal the court refused to strike out or determine by summary judgment the claimant widow's claim for provision from the deemed net estate of her husband under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Mr Dellal was a very wealthy property tycoon, listed in the Sunday Times Rich List as worth around £445m in the year he died and (tabloid reports would have it) prone to gambling away £1m in a single night in the casinos of Mayfair and Monaco.

He died in 2012 leaving the bullk of his estate to his widow Mrs Dellal, a former beauty queen. The assets comprising his disclosed estate amounted to £15.4 million. Mrs Dellal claimed that this was an 'absurd presentation of the true scale of his personal wealth at his death'. She argued that property had been given away within 6 years before death with the intention to defeat a 1975 Act claim and therefore that such property should be brought back into the estate under s10 of the Act.

The defendants sought an order summarily terminating the claim without a trial. Their principal points were that the claimant had not identified one single disposition that took place in favour of a defendant during the six years before death, nor had she identified any matters which could conceivably prove the necessary bad motive; and that she had no prospect of success having regard to the scale of her assets (said to be around £41.5m). Alternatively they sought strike out of the claim.

The Judge, whilst aware of the paucity of the claimant's case as to actual dispositions and bad motive, found that she had a strong prima facie case that, at his death, Mr Dellal had access to very considerable resources. It was acceptable to plead 'in a laconic or protean way in anticipation of particularisation following disclosure' so long as there is a prima facie case which is more than a 'speculative punt'.

Accordingly the Judge dismissed the strike out application, adjourned the summary judgment application with liberty to restore and ordered specific disclosure of all documents evidencing transfers worth £10,000 or more to or for the defendants from 28 October 2006 until Mr Dellal's death deriving either directly from Mr Dellal or from an entity over which he had de facto control. These documents would enable Mr Dellal to determine if the claimant had a real prospect of successfully proving the s10 claim.

We look forward to the next instalment.

Read the case here.

Category: Article