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Hand and another v George and another [2017] EWHC 533 (Ch) - (Mrs Justice Rose) 17 March 2017

20 June 2017

In brief:

The 1946 will trust did not include adopted grandchildren within a class of beneficiaries because of the statutory definition of 'children' in force at the relevant time. This was found to discriminate against the adopted grandchildren’s rights under Article 14 and Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights ('ECHR'). Despite the will trust being established well before the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, the High Court held that this was not a retrospective application of the law because it had only been necessary to interpret the trust when the adoptive father had died in 2008 (HRA 1998 came into force in 2000).

Although the other beneficiaries who already had vested interests under the will trust would lose out as a result of the adopted grandchildren’s successful claim, the High Court determined that this was not an unfair result because those beneficiaries had done nothing to avail themselves of their rights before the law changed. While the other beneficiaries could be said to have vested interests the exact quantification of the benefit they might receive could have fluctuated, for example, if later grandchildren were born. Therefore the recognition of adopted children’s rights could not be seen as an invasion of those vested interests.

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