An interesting case took place early this year where a carer was successful in securing part of her inheritance from the estate of the elderly lady she cared for. The estate was represented by a professional Genealogist who has appeared on the BBC series of Heir Hunters.
The carer, Miss Vasileva, first met with the late Mrs Stanley in 2002 whilst she was working in a supermarket, and shortly after began delivering Mrs Stanley’s shopping to her. A friendship developed and after a stay in hospital in 2005 Mrs Stanley asked Miss Vasileva if she would assist her so that she could remain at her flat as she did not want professional carers.
During the following years, Miss Vasileva cared for Mrs Stanley and on repeated occasions Mrs Stanley told Miss Vasileva that she would leave her the flat in exchange for the care she had given. Mrs Stanley was a Holocaust survivor and believed she had no living relatives after her sister died in a concentration camp.
After Mrs Stanley’s death in 2009 Miss Vasileva moved into the flat pursuant to the promises she had been given and relied upon.
Unfortunately Mrs Stanley did not make a will which meant her estate was to be dealt with under the rules of intestacy whereby your estate is left to your spouse and/or your closest living relatives, and if neither to the Crown.
Peter Birchwood, the professional Genealogist, traced two distant cousins of Mrs Stanley and so they, under the rules of Intestacy were the rightful heirs to her estate.
A legal battle ensued in the High Court over the flat and Mrs Stanley’s £1.3million fortune.
Mr Birchwood argued that Miss Vasileva was a trespasser and should also pay the estate approximately £50,000 for her years of rent-free accommodation. Miss Vasileva arguing that she relied on the promises made by Mrs Stanley.
The judge, Mark Raeside QC, thought differently and ruled that Mrs Stanley had promised Miss Vasileva the flat, however, only awarded her £20,000 but dismissed Mr Birchwood’s claim for rent against her. The Judge went on to rule that Miss Vasileva care was valued at around £70,000 and not £160,000 which was the value of the flat and so given the above ordered that she had to leave the flat later this year so it could go back to the estate.
This case is another clear example of how important it is to make a will if you want to leave your estate to specific people or in a specific way, otherwise, your estate will fall under the laws of intestacy which may not mean your estate is dealt with in accordance with your wishes, which can lead to costly court proceedings.
If you are involved in a situation that sounds familiar or in any dispute after a loved one has died please do not hesitate to contact: