Tuesday, 4 August 2015
You need a will, but must make sure it helps those intended!
When was the last time you reviewed your will or have you even made one?
The Court of Appeal has just awarded a six figure pay-out to a daughter, from whom the deceased had been estranged for 26 years – despite the entire estate being left in the will to three animal charities.
During a lengthy court battle, Heather Ilott had fought for financial provision to be made for her maintenance, following her mother’s death in 2004. When this first went to court in 2007, the decision was that the daughter had been unreasonably excluded and awarded an inheritance of £50,000. This ruling was later reversed, when Ms Ilott had applied for a larger share of the estate than initially awarded. Then, in 2011, the matter went to the Court of Appeal which upheld the initial award of £50,000. The court action went on – still dissatisfied, Mrs Ilott applied for a larger share of the estate, but again in 2014 lost her battle. Further legal action and after 8 years, Mrs Ilott has successfully challenged the estate and finally been awarded £148,000 by the Court of Appeal. The Judge commented during the trial that the deceased had, in not leaving her daughter any inheritance, been “unreasonable, capricious and harsh”.
Until now, proving adult dependency has been complex and problematic and this has often discouraged adult dependants from pursuing claims against an estate to which they have been excluded. The Courts have always had the discretion to depart from wills under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. However, this new ruling has widened the scope for them to do so, making it easier for adult dependant children to bring claims, where they have been excluded from their parent’s will.
Adult dependants who consider they have been unreasonably excluded will hopefully now be given confidence to pursue a claim, where they are rightful entitled to do so.
A will is a necessity: otherwise, on your death, your assets will be distributed not necessarily as you might have wished, but according to the strict rules of intestacy. The list of who may benefit is restricted : for example, not included are unmarried partners not in a civil partnership, carers, relations by marriage. Also, if there are children and the estate exceeds £250,000, a spouse will not inherit the whole of the estate outright, but will be sharing with the children.
However, now extra care and thought must be given to the drafting of your Will and getting the right advice, to ensure it does not fall foul of the ever changing law and be left wide open for a successful challenge and the significant costs involved.