Eccentric Marquess of Bath leaves famous ‘wifelets’ out of £23 million will

17th June 2021 Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning

Alexander George Thynn, known as the 7th Marquess of Bath and owner of the Longleat estate, died from COVID-19 on 4 April 2020.

Following his death, news of the Marquess’ £23 million fortune garnered interest from the press, as his 74 ‘wifelets’ (the Marquess’ unique term for his mistresses) were notably absent in his will. 

At the time of his death, at least five of the Marquess’ ‘wifelets’ were reported to be residing in cottages across the 9,000-acre property, but with no provision for them in his last will and testament, their future is now uncertain. However, if these individuals are able to establish that they were financially maintained, either partly or wholly, by the Marquess at the time of death, they still may be able to make a claim for part of his estate.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Following reductions from taxes and debts, it was reported that the Marquess of Bath had £14.4 million remaining in his estate. £1 million of this went to his wife Anna Gael, with the remainder of his estate, including his cash and art, going into a trust for his wife and children.

Despite publicly acknowledging his open relationships with his mistresses and allowing many of his ‘wifelets’ to reside on his estate, the Marquess left all 74 women out of his will.

However, those women who were partly or wholly maintained by Marquess at the time of death may still be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Act”):

This Act allows certain people to claim financial provision from a deceased person’s estate, if they believe they have not been suitably provided for in the deceased’s will, or under the intestacy rules in cases 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 financially dependent, either wholly or partly, on the deceased. 

With this in mind - and if the reported number of ‘wifelets’ living and being maintained on the Marquess’ estate is true - there is potential for multiple competing claims to be made.

Further, should the Marquess’ widow, Anna Gael, feel that the £1 million sum she received is insufficient, she may also have legal grounds to make a claim under the act.

How might settlement look?

The case of the Marquess of Bath’s will is truly unique, particularly given the public nature of his family, his estate, and his famous ‘wifelets.’ The court would need to consider the financial position of each claimant to understand the degree to which each potential mistress was maintained, as well as looking at their current financial position and the competing claims to the estate. 

Factors such as lifestyle and earning capacity would be taken into consideration by the courts, meaning the merits of each potential case may look very different. 

Similar to the George Michael and Kenny Goss case, this type of public claim could also garner a considerable amount of media attention. Claims under the Act can be costly for all parties and the wish to try and keep the costs of defending multiple claims to a minimum and avoid the spectacle of a public hearing, may prompt the beneficiaries of the estate to consider settlement at an early stage.

As with many probate proceedings, the case of the Marquess’ will has the potential to be both complex, emotionally distressing, and financially challenging for the individuals involved. Each individual would need to ensure they access the right legal support to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

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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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