Gold digger or supportive mother?

Posted on: January 20th, 2018

Inheritance cases continue to make the news and none cause more excitement than claims by apparent “gold diggers”.

The latest claim in the press is that of Melissa Proles who is reported as a “tycoon’s mistress” seeking a slice of his fortune. The story has the added twist of an alleged “love child” whose paternity is disputed and an overseas wife who was unaware of her husband’s double-life.

Understandably, the deceased’s wife is unhappy about the discovery and is resisting the claim. Delving below the headlines however it is revealed that Ms Proles is seeking the money for the child’s maintenance, rather than her own. Perhaps, not such a gold-digger, but can the claim succeed?

The case is presently focusing on the deceased’s domicile at the date of death because whilst he has lived in England for many years, he was born in India and returned there shortly before his death. Unless domicile is established in this jurisdiction that is the end of case, whatever the merits of the other issues. The arguments are finely balanced and the case continues.

If the case moves onto paternity and that is established, the court can make an award for the benefit of the child whatever the will says. Given the child was apparently treated by the deceased as his own, one might question why not first investigate paternity and then consider a potential trust fund for the child. That would certainly be far cheaper than the domicile dispute.

This case seems to be a battle of wills between the two ladies and perhaps it would be better to take a step back for the benefit of the child rather than spending inheritance on escalating legal fees.

Chris Gambs is an Associate Solicitor in the Inheritance and Wills Disputes team.