Brother Can You Spare a Dime – Kenny Goss is three years too late in his claim against ex George Michael’s estate

Kenny Goss will have an uphill battle with his recent claim for provision from the estate of ex-partner the late George Michael.  The statute of limitations for contesting a Will is 6 months after the Grant of Probate; Mr Michael died on Christmas day 2016.  Mr Goss is now at least 3 years late in bringing this claim, furthermore as Mr Goss was not a cohabitant for the two years prior to George’s death, his relationship with Mr Goss ended in 2011, he would not qualify as a cohabitee under the Act.

If at the time of George Michael’s death, Mr Goss had wanted to challenge the validity of Mr Michael’s Will he would have needed to register a Caveat, which would have prevented the executors of Mr. Michael’s estate from issuing a Grant of Representation and prevented the Grant of Probate from being issued.   A Caveat is a simple £20 form that can be submitted online if you believe that the Will of the deceased is invalid, this could be due to the Caveator having knowledge of a newer Will or perhaps questioning the capacity of the individual making the Will.

3 years ago, Mr Goss would have been able to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act if at the time of Mr Michael’s death they had been cohabitants.   Over the years the courts have taken a fairly wide view on the threshold for cohabiting, and the general rules are:

  • Did the parties share a household and relationship for the 2 years ending immediately before the date of death?
  • Was the relationship an emotional one of mutual lifetime commitment rather than one of convenience, friendship or companionship?
  • Was the relationship openly presented to the outside world; and did the parties have a common life together?

If Mr Goss had met the threshold for a cohabitee, he could have made a claim for inadequate provision under the Inheritance Act and may have been awarded maintenance.   Interestingly,  the amount that Goss is claiming (£15k a month) may have been awarded, as the courts view maintenance as not simply proving the bare necessities for living, but in keeping the cohabitee in the lifestyle they have become accustomed, this was established in the case of Negus v. Bahouse [2008] EWCA 1002 where a cohabitee had lived with the deceased for 7 years in some luxury; she was awarded the property they lived in addition to a capital sum of £240k to provide for future needs, and the Court of Appeal held that the court was entitled to take into account the luxurious life she had lived with the deceased.  When making an award the court would have looked at Goss’ financial needs, his age, the length of the relationship, and any contributions to the household Goss may have made.   While the court has the ability to order maintenance payments, these are rarely made, and if Goss had been successful it is much more likely that he would have been given a lump sum payment.

But Goss for whatever reason did not enter a Caveat to question Michael’s capacity to make a new Will; Goss did not bring a claim under the Inheritance Act 3 years ago and will struggle to prove that he qualifies to do so now.  It will be interesting to follow this case.  Michael’s estate was valued at £97.6 million, the cost of litigation in these matters can quickly add up, and each party could easily spend £30K just to get to mediation.   It is one of those matters where the estate will have to ask themselves, is it worth spending the money, time, and emotional stress to defend this claim (Michael’s father is in his 80’s and his sister Melanie just passed away), or is the estate in a financial position to negotiate a settlement with Goss to simply bring matters to a swift close.

Challenging an estate for an Inheritance Act claim is not for the fainthearted – it can be time-consuming, expensive, can damage family relationships, and definitely should not be embarked on without the assistance of a specialist solicitor. However, contentious probate claims are on the rise for numerous reasons including more complex family structures, a bigger spread of wealth, and unfortunately, a plethora of poorly drafted Wills.

We are experienced in both bringing and defending contested probate cases – contact Alexis on 01452 509871 and alexis.wathen@tayntons.co.uk


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