Female friends by the sea

Lord Bath’s ‘wifelets’ have received nothing from his £23million estate, the media has reported. But are they eligible to claim?

The 7th Marquess of Bath (known as Lord Bath) was well known for owning the famed Longleat Safari Park and having a harem of ‘wifelets’ throughout his life. Lord Bath had been married for much of his adult life, but openly courted and housed a number of girlfriends, whom he referred to as ‘wifelets’.

If the media reports are correct and Lord Bath has left his entire estate to his wife and children, what does this mean for the wifelets who have depended on him financially and for their accommodation?

A claim for financial provision

It is possible for a person who has not been provided for from an estate to make an application to the civil court seeking financial provision from it. Such a claim would be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which is known commonly as ‘the inheritance act’ or ‘the 1975 act’.

Despite the wifelets not having been married to Lord Bath, it is likely they would fall into one of the specific classes of beneficiary who are eligible to make a claim.

What makes Lord Bath’s wifelets eligible to claim?

1975 Act claims are only available to certain classes of individuals, but one of those classes includes persons who have been maintained by the ‘deceased’ and on that basis, require that maintenance to continue from the deceased’s estate.

This means that if the wifelets can demonstrate they were reliant on Lord Bath financially, or for providing their accommodation, and they require this provision to continue after his death, it is open to the court to make provision for them from his estate. This provision can take the form of capital (ie. a lump sum), or periodical payments, and can override the terms of any Will Lord Bath made.

Can they claim as unmarried partners?

An unmarried partner is also a separate class of eligible beneficiary, however the partner must be able to demonstrate that they cohabited with the deceased for a continuous period of two years prior to their death.

In this case, it is understood that none of Lord Bath’s wifelets lived in the same property as him, so it is unlikely they would be an eligible claimant as a cohabitee. You can read more about 1975 Act Claims by cohabitees here.

To find out more about pursuing a 1975 Act Claim, or protecting your future estate against one, get in touch with our Inheritance and Trust Disputes Team below.