A recent ruling may make it easier for adult children to challenge wills where they consider their parents have not made reasonable provision for them.
But it may also seriously undermine the right of people to leave money and assets to whom and whatever cause or charity they wish.
Not a penny for you…
Heather Ilott, 54, was awarded £164,000 from her estranged mother’s estate, even though the mother expressly stated in her will that she did not want her child to receive a penny.
Instead, Melita Jackson left her £500,000 estate to animal charities when she died in 2004.
But after an eight-year court battle, and after successfully appealing that £50,000 awarded at an earlier hearing was insufficient, her only daughter was granted a third of that money on the grounds that her mother did not leave “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
The Court of Appeal ruled that Mrs Ilott would otherwise face a life of poverty because she was on benefits and could not afford to go on holiday or buy clothes for her children.
Could your will be overturned by a court?
The fact that Mrs Jackson had little connection to the charities to which she left her money played a part in the ruling, the judges said.
The ruling has implications for how people need to draw up their wills and it is possible that individuals would in future have to explain their reasons for leaving money to certain parties and demonstrate tangible connections to them.
It could also potentially make it easier for adult children who are disinherited by their parents to challenge their wills and gain a proportion of any estate.
Many believe that the ruling is saying that while you can still disinherit your children, you are going to have to explain why and show connections with those you are leaving the money to.
It also seems to be making it easier for adult children to claim for reasonable financial provision in wills and has made the gap wider for them to do this.
Heather Ilott’s case, and those outlined below, clearly illustrate the importance of making a professionally prepared Will – not only to spot areas of potential dispute but to ensure that the people or organisations you want to benefit, actually do.
A battle of wills
For advice on Wills, please contact Wards Solicitors Probate, Wills and Mental Capacity Team or pop in to your local office