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Michael Gambon and the Inheritance of Secrets

Michael Gambon, famously known for his lead role as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, has caused a stir following the revelation of his Will following his death in September 2023.

Michael was married to his wife, Anne Gambon, for 61 years and together they had a son, Fergus Gambon. However, during their marriage, Michael also had a long-term relationship with set designer, Philippa Hart. Philippa and Michael have two children together, Tom Gambon and William Gambon. It is understood that Michael split his time between his wife and his long-term girlfriend for two decades. 

Although the star shared his time equally between his two families, the same has not been replicated in his Will. It is understood that he has left the majority of his c. £1.5m fortune to his wife and their son. His long-term girlfriend appears to have been left nothing, with their two sons receiving a gift of £10,000 each and a trophy. 

In England and Wales, a testator has the freedom to leave their estate to whoever they choose in their Will, and there is no specific obligation to provide for any particular friend of family member. This does not mean, however, that the estate is protected against any challenges being brought against it. 

Currently, it is not clear as to whether Philippa intends to bring a challenge against Michael’s estate. In these cases, Philippa could bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 as a cohabitee. Philippa had been cohabiting with Michael for a lengthy period of time (albeit he did share his time equally between his two households) and therefore she would satisfy the two-year period that must be proved in order to enable a cohabitee to bring a claim. 

This situation may be challenging, however, as a cohabitee must establish that they were living ‘as husband and wife’. Whilst a long-term girlfriend is likely to satisfy this, Michael in this case, had a wife alongside this relationship, and this may therefore cause a challenge for Philippa to establish. 

This is a reminder that a person’s estate may still face a challenge, even if it is thought that the testator’s intentions were clear within the Will. Any executor to a Will must be aware of these risks when carrying out their duties, to ensure that the administration of the Estate is as smoothly as possible.

Our Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team are available to discuss any such queries and their contact details can be found here.