Adult Children 1975 Act Claims – the Latest Case

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Miles v Shearer [2021] EWCH 100 (Ch)

Following the infamous case of Illot v Mitson [2017], the Courts continue to hear claims by adult children under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Despite Ms Illot’s success however, the reality remains that claims by adult children are notoriously difficult to bring. 

One of the most recent cases before the court was Miles v Shearer [2021] in which the claimants, the only two adult children of the late Mr Shearer, were unsuccessful in their claims against his £2.2million estate, which resulted in them receiving nothing form the estate at all.

The law

A cornerstone of the English legal system has been the concept of testamentary freedom. That is: a person is free to dispose of their assets as they wish on their death. Therefore - and this continues to surprise many people - an adult child does not have an automatic right to receive an inheritance from their parents. While the Inheritance Act enables a child of the deceased to make an application for financial provision, in order to be successful, the claimant must show that the will (or the intestacy rules if there is no will) does not make “reasonable financial provision” for their maintenance.

Each case is heavily influenced by its own facts and, as in the case of Miles v Shearer, it is possible for the court to conclude that reasonable financial provision has been made even where no financial provision has been made at all.

Key Facts

The two claimants, Juliet Miles aged 40 and Lauretta Shearer aged 39, were the only children of the deceased. The deceased divorced the claimants’ mother in 2007 and then married the defendant, Pamela Shearer.

The claimants had been well provided for by their father until young adulthood. However following their parents’ divorce in 2007, the claimants’ relationship with their father became strained. In 2008 the deceased made substantial gifts to both of them (Juliet received £177,000 and Lauretta £185,000) and he wrote a letter stating that he considered this to be the end to his financial involvement with them. 

The deceased died in 2017 and pursuant to his Will, the vast majority of his £2.2millon estate was left to the claimants’ stepmother. No provision was made for the claimants.

The claimants applied to the court under the Inheritance Act, on the grounds that the deceased had acted unreasonably by not including them in his Will and that they were in need of financial maintenance.

The first claimant, Juliet, lived with her mother and they jointly owned a property in which Juliet had capital of £175,000. She sought funding to purchase her own home as well as to re-train as a dog behaviourist.

The second claimant, Lauretta, had a full time job earning around £70,000 per annum and capital in her property of around £300,000. She sought a lump sum to enable her to convert her ‘interest only’ mortgage to a repayment mortgage and to ‘buy out’ her ex-husband’s 11% share in her property.

Their stepmother did not raise a ‘needs based defence’ but opposed the claims on the grounds that neither claimant had demonstrated a financial need for maintenance and that the deceased had already fulfilled any parental obligations of financial assistance.


In making the decision, the judge considered both of the claimants’ financial circumstances. He concluded that neither daughter was in such strained financial circumstances to be able to establish a need for maintenance under the Inheritance Act.

The judge was critical of Juliet’s claimed financial needs, which had been calculated based on her current living standard, which involved living in her mother’s large countryside property with a swimming pool. Her previous standard of living had been far less luxurious and she had accepted that previous lifestyle. The judge concluded that her financial needs should be assessed on that lower standard of living.

With regard to Lauretta’s circumstances, a sum of money to convert her interest only mortgage to a repayment mortgage would not fall within the ‘maintenance’ requirement under the 1975 Act. Nor could an award to buy out her ex-husband’s 11% share in her property, which was not due until 2034, be deemed as a financial need of the ‘foreseeable future’.

Furthermore, the judge was satisfied that there had been a clear and continued disclaimer made by the deceased against providing the claimants with any financial assistance following the substantial gifts made in 2008. The judge was satisfied that the deceased had no obligations or responsibilities towards his daughters at the time he died. He stated that:

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of what occurred, the most important aspect of his relationship with his daughters for present purposes is that, after he had made the gifts to them in 2008, [the deceased] was not prepared to provide further financial assistance to them. The lifestyle choices they made were, as I have said, not dependent upon the expectation of any such assistance.”

The judge ultimately concluded that the claimants failed to establish that reasonable financial provision had not been provided for them. Therefore, their claims under the Inheritance Act were dismissed.


While all Inheritance Act claims are very fact specific, this case highlights once again the difficulties financially independent adult children face when pursuing such claims, even where there is a fairly large estate and a history of past maintenance.

If you would like advice on challenging a will, or indeed on any other inheritance or trust dispute, please contact our Disputed Wills & Trusts team by telephone on 0800 0931336 or by email

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