By way of a French will Mr Matthews left a property in the south of France to his partner Ms Marteyn. His English will stipulated that inheritance tax on his worldwide estate was to be paid from his English estate which was left to his natural son. His three adopted children were not left anything in either will.
The adopted children sought to claim their share of 75% of the French property pursuant to the French laws of forced heirship.
The adopted children also sought payment from the English estate of the French inheritance tax on their share of the French property (approximately €2.5m) notwithstanding that Mr Matthews had not sought to benefit them at all.
The Chancery Division found in favour of Ms. Marteyn. Nicholas Strauss QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge held that on construction of Mr Matthews' will, it would not be equitable to allow a benefit to pass that was not intended.
He also held that even if a legacy of the tax were possible, the adopted children could not take under the English will (the French tax) in circumstances where that benefit arose as the result of an unintended gift in the first place (the French forced heirship provisions).