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Loss of inheritance due to parents not being married

View profile for Amanda Smallcombe
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Loss of inheritance due to parents not being married

Actress Elizabeth Hurley’s 19-year-old son, Damian Hurley, will not receive any inheritance from a trust fund established by his grandfather, Peter Bing, as she was not married to his late father, Steve Bing, who died in June 2020.


Background of the unmarried partners:


Actress and model, Liz Hurley, dated Steve Bing for 18 months, but Steve initially denied paternity and refused to have anything to do with Damian. Steve reportedly made a will whilst Liz was pregnant, to disinherit both Liz and their son Damian. However, before his death, Steve started to get to know his son after calling him on his 18th birthday.


Steve died believing his children, Damian and his half-sister Kira, would be financially secure. Before Steve died, he won an inheritance dispute with his father, Dr Peter Bing, after he tried to exclude Damian and Kira from the trust he set up 40 years ago for his grandchildren on the basis they were born out of wedlock. He claims that he did not intend for the trust to benefit illegitimate children. Read more about this in a recent blog.


After Steve’s death, his father, Peter Bing, successfully appealed the court decision and the judge ruled he could distribute the trust as he saw fit. It is now thought that only the children of Steve’s sister, Mary, will inherit the trust fund, believed to be worth a billion dollars (£725 million).


The Bing family’s worth descends from Stephen’s grandfather, who was a property developer in New York in the early 1920s. Steve inherited $600 million (£460 million) when he was 18, but only left an estate worth £240,000 when he died in June 2020.


Liz Hurley gave a statement stating, “When Stephen took his own life, he died thinking his children were going to be taken care of.” 


“What Stephen wanted has now been callously reversed. I know Stephen would have been devastated. Stephen fought very hard in his last year to have his children recognised and repeatedly told me how incredibly important this was to him.” 


“He was happy beyond belief that the trial verdict ruled that Damian was to be treated like his sister's children as far as the trust was concerned," adding: "I am just relieved that Stephen will never know that Damian's relatives — Stephen's father and the family of his sister, Mary — were ultimately successful in their appeal against the original trial verdict."


Kira reportedly wrote to her grandfather, Peter, after Steve’s death, but the letter was returned unopened. Mary and her children have also shown no interest in Damian, nor Kira.


Is there a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children in a will or trust?


The trust dispute revolved around whether the reference to grandchildren in the trust deed included those born out of wedlock.


In England and Wales, for wills and trusts made after 4 April 1988, which simply refer to “children” or “heirs”, there is no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children, unless there is evidence of a direct intention to exclude an illegitimate child.


What if you die without a will?


If someone dies without a will, the rules of intestacy dictate how their estate will be divided. The rules also make no distinction between legitimate and illegitimate children for deaths after 4 April 1988. 


In cases where it is unclear what a word in a will or trust document means, the court can make a ruling on the interpretation of the word by looking at evidence of what was intended. The court will try to determine what meaning would the will or trust convey to a reasonable person having the background knowledge available to them that the person making the will or establishing the trust had at the time they made it.


If you need to seek legal advice about whether or not you are included in a will or you have an inheritance dispute, our specialist contentious probate team at Birkett Long will be able advise you whether you could bring a claim against an estate or have any grounds to contest a will. 


Please contact me via amanda.smallcombe@birkettlong.co.uk or on 01206 217395  to discuss your matter. 

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