Years ago, it was common for a deed creating a trust for children to specify the beneficiaries as being ‘the legitimate children’ of the person setting up the trust.
Recently, the children of the 13th Duke of Manchester, by his bigamous marriage to a Californian woman, went to court to seek entitlement from the family trust, which contained a ‘legitimacy’ clause.
Under the Legitimacy Act 1959, children of a void marriage are to be treated as legitimate if either of the parties to the marriage believed that it was valid.
In the case in question, the mother of the two children did not know that the Duke, whom she ‘married’ in 1993, had failed to obtain a divorce, so did not realise that the marriage was void.
Strictly, the Act would apply only if the Duke had been domiciled in England at the time of the births of the children. However, since Australia and California (the only two other possible domiciles) both have similar legislation regarding the legitimacy of children of void marriages, the court ruled that their entitlement had been established.