The widow of a businessman who died in a helicopter crash has returned to court seeking an additional slice of his fortune.
When Ian Wooldridge died in October 2010, his widow Thandi inherited the couple’s £4 million self-built home in Surrey along with an additional £1.6 million. She was also granted £1.9 million in compensation for her husband’s death.
But Mrs Woolridge has now claimed that she needs a further share of her late husband’s estate to fund her lifestyle, according to media reports. She is seeking £3.75 million, or £372,000 a year, from the estate, which has a total value of roughly £10 million.
But her stepson Charlie Wooldridge has opposed the claim. The 27 year-old has taken over his father’s business interests, which include construction, polo and stabling. He argues that the large pay out sought would undermine the viability of his father’s firms.
His QC told the court the late Mr Wooldridge’s estate was a “finite pot” and his widow had a luxurious lifestyle.
“If you look at Charlie’s needs and resources, the most important thing is that his present and future are tied up with the family businesses. And to destroy these family businesses cannot be justified”.
Mrs Woolridge denied that paying her more would have this affect. Her QC argued that she had been instrumental in her late husband’s business success and that he would not have wanted her to worry about money. While the value of the former matrimonial home had shot upwards since his death, she could not maintain her lifestyle or fund the upkeep of the property based on its high nominal value.
The value of her inheritance had been depleted by previous debts, her counsel continued.
Judge Walden-Smith reserved judgement and will issue a ruling at a later date.
Under current legislation, certain people have the right to claim that ‘reasonable financial provision’ hasn’t been made for them by the deceased person – the deceased’s spouse is one such person. The court is the arbiter of what is ‘reasonable’ in each case, and in this case the court will make a judgement on whether she should receive anything extra from the estate. However, given the potential cost of litigation the advice of a specialist solicitor should be sought at the outset not only to assess whether someone has a realistic case, but also to handle such a case in such a way as to obtain the best outcome, whether that be through the courts or by negotiating a favourable settlement so that the expense of court action can be avoided for a similar or better result.