Settlement reached in George Michael's estate

In October last year, news broke that the late George Michael's partner of four years, Kenny Goss, was purportedly bringing a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the 1975 Act) for reasonable financial provision. This was due to him having been excluded from George's will. It was reported that Kenny was claiming £15,000 per month maintenance from George's £100 million estate. It is also reported that a settlement has just been reached in respect of this claim.

This is a good opportunity to run back through the requirements for a 1975 Act claim and how they may be applied in this scenario.

Once you get over the hurdle of the deceased being domiciled in England and Wales, there is a limited group of people who can bring a claim under the 1975 Act. These are:

  1. A spouse or civil partner;
  2. A former spouse or civil partner;
  3. A child of the deceased (including adult children);
  4. Any person who was treated as a child of the deceased;
  5. Any person who was being maintained immediately by the deceased immediately prior to the deceased's death; and
  6. A cohabitee of the deceased.

As George and Kenny's relationship ended in some time ago (more than two years prior to George's death), the claim most likely would have been brought under category (e). This is where Kenny would have claimed that he was being maintained by George immediately prior to George's death. 

The court, in the scenario of a dependant being maintained, considers what sum is reasonably required for the person's maintenance. That figure can be capitalised (turned into a lump sum) and housing provision could be ordered.

There are also strict time limits to bring a claim. Claims under the 1975 Act should be brought within six months of the grant of probate being issued.

As the settlement was confidential, we simply do not know what was agreed or how the timings would have worked given that the grant of probate was issued in May 2019. But it does highlight how freedom of testamentary disposition (the freedom to leave your estate to whomever you choose) is not clear cut. Claims under the 1975 Act are very common and we regularly advise upon them; whether advising the person not sufficiently provided for, the executor of the estate or the beneficiaries who would be affected as a result of the claim.