George Michael’s ex-partner wins a share of the star’s £97 million estate

20th May 2021 Will Disputes

Wham star, George Michael, famously known for hits including ‘Faith’ and ‘Last Christmas,’ passed away on Christmas day in 2016.

Michael’s estate was estimated to be worth just short of £100 million, with the majority of his estate being left to his siblings and various friends. The will left nothing to Michael’s ex partners, including Kenny Goss.

Michael’s former partner, Kenny Goss, sought to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, seeking reasonable financial provision from the estate. Goss and Michael had a serious relationship together between 1996 and 2009.

Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”):

The Act allows certain categories of people to claim financial provision from a deceased person’s estate, if they believe they have not been suitably provided for in their will, or under the intestacy rules where there is no will . S.1(1)(e) of the Act allows a person to make a claim if immediately before the death of the deceased, they were being maintained, either wholly or partly, by the deceased. It is understood that Goss sought to bring a claim under this part of the Act, seeking reasonable financial provision from Michael’s estate. To be successful with such a claim Goss would have had to convince a court that, despite no longer being with Michael, he was still being maintained by him until his death.

Facts of the claim:

It has been widely reported that, in making his claim, Goss had been seeking monthly payments of £15,000 and that even more importantly, he was still being maintained by Michael, up until his death. He further argued that he was reliant on the money from Michael and that he gave up his career as an art dealer to look after him. During their relationship, he is understood to have claimed that he was “effectively a stay at home husband.” Crucially, Goss claimed says he was also reliant upon the money from Michael after their relationship had ended, right up until Michael’s death. That ongoing maintenance need is crucial in order to be able to bring a claim under the Act.

Settlement:

Goss has reached a settlement with Michael’s family of an undisclosed amount and the terms of the settlement are confidential.

The case is particularly interesting because Michael and Goss were not in a relationship for sometime before Michael’s death, and Michael was in fact dating someone else at the time of his death, yet Goss still claimed there was a maintenance obligation on Michael.

This case did not reach trial but it would have been interesting to see what decision a judge would have made and whether they would have considered that Goss, as a former partner of Michael, could still be said to be being maintained by Michael when they had not been in a relationship for over 6 years. The court would have also had to consider the general financial position of Goss, and whether he had a specific maintenance need, in order to decide whether a claim for reasonable financial provision from Michael’s estate could be sustained. Goss’ current financial circumstances and earning capacity would need to have been analysed by the court and taken into consideration against the lifestyle that he had enjoyed due to the provision made for him by Michael. The court will consider what the appropriate standard of maintenance is for a Claimant in claims under the Act on a case by case basis. As the former partner of a millionaire popstar, it would be reasonable to expect that a court, if they found that Goss was being maintained by Michael at death, would have considered that the sum needed for Goss to live decently and comfortably in accordance with the lifestyle he had enjoyed would be fairly substantial.

Claims under the Act can be extremely costly for all parties and a public trial of the claim would likely have been stressful for all the parties involved and created considerable unwanted media interest for the family so it is not surprising that in this instance they have chosen to enter into a confidential agreement in order to bring this matter to conclusion. Had the case gone to trial and a judge found in favour of Goss, such a high profile case could have had the potential to open the floodgates for ex-partners to try and bring claims under the Act even where they had been separated for a number of years, whether or not they were meritorious.

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Ian Johnston is a Senior Associate Solicitor located in Manchester in our Will and Trust Disputes department

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