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As if you needed proof that you needed to write a Will…

A recent case in the High Court of Justice Chancery Division in Cardiff has highlighted, again, the importance of leaving a Will. If you’re concerned about making sure that your estate passes to the people you want, you may want to read this article!

The background
David Evans died on 23 March 2009, aged 59, leaving a long term partner, sister and two sons.

Mr Evans had been in a long-term relationship with the Ms Cattle since 1990 and they had lived together for some five years of their relationship.

Mr Evans died without leaving a Will, meaning that the rules of intestacy came into force, relating to how the estate was to be divided.

In Mr Evans’ case, it was decided (by these rules) that his estate should be divided equally between his two sons, leaving nothing to his long-term partner.

Ms Cattle therefore brought a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from the estate, as well as making a separate claim that she had an interest in a property in Wales, owned in Mr Evans’ sole name.

The result
Ms Cattle’s claim for an interest in the property failed, based on the facts of the case, but she was successful in being awarded a share of Mr Evans’ estate.

The estate comprised assets totalling around £220,000.00 and the Court ordered a property to be purchased out of that with a value of no more than £110,000.00, for her to occupy for as long as she wished.

Whilst the property to be purchased will eventually pass to Mr Evans two sons, they will not have access to that part of the estate until Ms Cattle dies.

What we can learn from this…In giving evidence, Mr Evans’ sons suggested that their father had deliberately not made a Will during his lifetime, with the intention that his estate would pass to his sons by default. However, as a result, this act (or omission) has led to over two years’ of litigation following his death.

With hindsight it would have been far better for him to have had a Will drawn up, thereby ensuring that his intentions and wishes were made expressly clear. Whilst this may not necessarily have prevented a claim being made it would at least have helped to clarify his wishes should a dispute have arisen.

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