Bee Gee leaves child out of £26m will

Family Law|July 23rd 2013

The daughter of Robin Gibb hasn’t been included in the late Bee Gee singer’s will. Snow Robin, aged four, was fathered with housekeeper Claire Yang.  Instead his will has been drawn up in favour of his wife and three other children.

Mr Gibb died in 2012, aged 62, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Newspapers have reported that he left a 15-page will, and an estate valued at £25.8 million after tax. Miss Yang is thought to have been permitted to keep a £850,000 house in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, which had been purchased for her previously.

However, the final paragraph of the will states that Gibb was “in the process of making reasonable financial provision for Snow”, and asked his trustees to provide for her if he did not. It is not known if Miss Yang plans to contest the will on behalf of her daughter. However under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, any child is allowed to contest a will or have it contested on their behalf if they are excluded or if it is unfair.

When Inheritance Act claims are made, there are time limits that must be complied with. If they are missed, the claim will fail.  Applications are made not in the Family Courts but in the Civil Courts – so Civil Procedure Rules apply, not the Family Proceedings Rules.

Many such claims are referred to probate lawyers because they arise at death.  However, the way in which the court decides Inheritance Act has some common ground with family proceedings.  In both, a judge must examine evidence and reach conclusions as to facts:

  • What was the deceased’s estate?
  • Who were the people who had a moral claim upon his estate?
  • To what extent was the claimant dependant on the deceased?
  • Taking all this into account, what is reasonable provision under the circumstances?

In a previous post on this blog (When you make a will, can your wishes be overruled?) we looked at a 2011 case called Ilot v Mitson. In this case Melita Jackson had left all her money, some £500,000, to animal charities and cut her only daughter, Mrs Ilott, out of the will. Lawyers are quite familiar with such a possibility, and we will tell our clients that inheritance expectations are usually irrelevant because the money might be left to the cats’ home. Here, it really happened. During her lifetime, Mrs Jackson had shown no interest in animals. Even so, the animal charities were set to inherit instead of the estranged child.

Mrs Ilott challenged the will: a district judge found that it did not make “reasonable financial provision” for her and awarded her £50,000 from the estate. The judgment was appealed by the animal charities set to benefit from Melita Jackson’s estate. However the Court of Appeal found in Mrs Ilott’s favour as they found that the District Judge had done the job correctly in the first instance.

Robin Gibb’s total fortune has previously been estimated at £93 million, although much of this is believed to be tied up in assets held overseas as well as assets owned jointly with his wife. These funds will pass directly to Mrs Gibb without being included in the will.

Speaking earlier this year, Mr Gibb’s widow Dwina stated: “Let’s just say Robin made sure everyone in his life was taken care of. They’ve been sufficiently provided for – everyone has.” There have also been unconfirmed reports that Mr Gibb gave Miss Yang £5 million before he died.

Miss Yang may yet contest the will, on behalf of her daughter and within the limited timescales. It is not yet clear if she wishes to do so. However the newspaper reports serve as a timely reminder for all of us, wealthy or otherwise, that wills should be drafted with great care and with professional advice.

As noted previously, when you are making your will I urge you not to “write off” one of your nearest and dearest.

Although you won’t be there if it happens, consider how the subsequent legal costs could ravage your estate and affect your intended beneficiaries.

Take a pragmatic view.

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