In a recent case, in the New South Wales Court of Appreal, Ashton v Pratt  NSWCA 12, a dispute arose over whether the mistress, Ms Ashton, could make a claim against the estate of the deceased, Mr Pratt, for a trust account for her children which was alleged to have been agreed as payment for providing her services as a mistress.
Background of Ashton v Pratt
The background of the case is as follows:
- from October 2003 to December 2004 Ms Ashton provided Mr Pratt with escort services;
- in November 2003 Mr Pratt requested Ms Ashton become his mistress in return for a trust account of $2.5 million for her two children, a car and certain allowances;
- in February 2005, an associate of Mr Pratt’s offered Ms Ashton the sum of $100,000 and a car in lieu of the previous offer, as full satisfaction of all claims against Mr Pratt. The money was transferred the very same day after Ms Ashton confirmed her bank account details to the associate. Ownership of the car was subsequently transferred;
- in November 2005, Ms Ashton signed a document acknowledging receipt of $50,000 in full settlement of all claims against Mr Pratt;
- however, Ms Ashton then denied receiving the money and sued the executor of Mr Pratt’s estate for the $2.5 million trust fund originally agreed in November 2003 on the basis that the conversation amounted to a binding contract.
What did the Court decide?
The Court found that the November 2003 conversation was not a binding agreement as:
- the agreement was void as it went against public policy due to the immoral nature of the arrangement;
- there was no intention to create legal relations as the language used in the November 2003 conversation and it was unlikely that Mr Pratt would make a promise that was essentially unenforceable;
- the terms of the agreement were uncertain as it failed to outline important terms such as Ms Ashton’s obligations as a mistress, how long Ms Ashton was to remain Mr Pratt’s mistress and the terms of the trust, for example, who would be the trustee and when the beneficiaries would be entitled to the trust funds;
- any such obligations of the agreement were released in February 2005 when Ms Ashton received the $100,000 and the car and signed the release document in November 2005; and
- Ms Ashton received substantial gifts totalling at least $185,000 whilst she was Mr Pratt’s mistress.
What should I do if there is a claim against my partners estate?
If you are in circumstances where a claim is made against the estate of a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact me as it is important for you to protect your rights. Your partners estate is a complex area which requires specialist legal advice.
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