Beckett & anr v McMillan & anr [2015] NICh 8








Beatrice Maeve Beckett was born on 15 March 1939. She married the late Raymond Walter Beckett (the deceased) on 6 August 1958. They had two sons. They eventually separated, after a series of what Mrs Beckett described as the ‘lengthy adulterous relationships’ on the part of the deceased.

The deceased eventually began cohabiting with Evangeline Jemima Herd, and they were living together as man and wife at the time of his death on 27 May 1997. He left a will of 8 February 1996 under which the entirety of his estate passed to Ms Herd.

Mrs Beckett issued proceedings on 7 February 2000 under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Order (Northern Ireland) 1979, within six months of the grant of probate. One of the deceased’s sons, Shane Beckett, was the second plaintiff in the proceedings under the Inheritance Order.

There were extensive negotiations between the parties with regard to the estate, which went on for a period of ten years. They were eventually disposed of by an agreement of 20 April 2010. The agreement noted the claim of Mrs Beckett and her son Shane, but did not include any binding agreement with regard to Mrs Beckett. Shane Beckett agreed that his claim would not be pursued further because of the settlement sum he was to receive: £280,000 without interest but that was to paid to him by no less than 120 consecutive monthly payments of £2,333.33 commencing on 15 January 2010 and continuing on fifteenth day of each month.

Ms Herd did not honour the agreement, and she made no periodic payments. Shane Beckett sued on the agreement in 2011 and obtained judgment on 23 September 2014 granting him his £280,000 with interest thereon at 5%.

In 2013, Mrs Beckett brought a summons before the court for an order making reasonable provision for her but citing that it was an interlocutory order within the earlier proceedings which she had brought it 2001. Ms Herd brought a summons to dismiss the summons for want of prosecution.


  1. 1) There was great delay in pursuing the matter and normally there would be no doubt that such a delay over a period of some ten years would defeat such a claim and, particularly, a claim relating to the Inheritance (Family Provisions) Order.
  2. 2) However, the parties were negotiating to resolve the dispute. The resolution of disputes between the parties is a laudable objective of justice and therefore attempts to do that could amount to an excuse.
  3. 3) Further, Mrs Beckett’s renewal of her claim was due to the complete failure of Ms Herd to honour the agreement of 2010, when it became doubtful that her son Shane Beckett would receive any money from the estate.
  4. 4) There was not sufficient prejudice caused to Ms Herd by restoring the claim where the essential facts and the assets were still readily ascertainable.
  5. 5) There was nothing to prevent Mrs Beckett from bringing a claim under the Order.

6) The unusual and exceptional facts should not prevent Mrs Beckett from pursuing her claim under the Order.

JUDGMENT DEENY J: [1] This is an application brought by Andrew Walker and Company, solicitor for Evangeline Jemima Herd (Ms Herd), on 17 February 2014. The matter was determined by the Master in favour of Ms Herd and she appeals from his order to this court. The application was that the claim of the first …
This content is only available to members.

Counsel Details

Counsel Mr Joseph O’Keefe for the plaintiffs.

Mr William Sinton instructed by Andrew Walker & Company (6 Bridge Street, Portadown, Co Armagh BT62 1JD, tel 028 3833 7591, email for the defendant.

Cases Referenced

  • Birkett v James [1977] 2 All ER 801
  • Biss v Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority [1978] 2 All ER 125
  • Crangle v Napier and Others 10 October 1997
  • (
  • Dept. of Transport v Chris Smaller (Transport) Ltd [1989] 1 All ER 897
  • National Insurance Guarantee Corporation Limited v Robert Bradford and Company Limited (1970) 114 Solicitor’s Journal 436
  • Re Salmon [1981] Ch 167
  • Roebuck v Mungovin [1994] 1 All ER 568
  • Shtun v Zalejska (1996) 3 AER 411 C.A.

Legislation Referenced

  • Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Order (Northern Ireland) 1979
  • Rules of the Court of Judicature (Northern Ireland) 1980