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Want to leave relatives out of your Will? What this inheritance battle shows us.

Want to leave relatives out of your Will? What this inheritance battle shows us.

A grandfather upset that his grandchildren rarely visited him was perfectly entitled to leave them just £50 each in his Will, a High Court judge has ruled.

Frederick Ward’s five granddaughters disputed the Will arguing that their late father’s one third share of their granddad’s £500,000 estate should have been passed on to them.

However, High Court Master James Brightwell did not agree.

He described Mr Ward’s 2018 Will – which left the bulk of his estate to his two surviving children – as ‘entirely rational’ based on the very limited contact he’d had with his granddaughters who’d rarely visited him even when he was hospitalised three times with a lung condition.

On grounds of insufficient evidence, the judge dismissed the granddaughters’ claims that Mr Ward did not have the mental capacity to make the Will and that his two children, Terry Ward and Susan Wiltshire, had exerted undue influence over him.

What is the background to this grandchildren Will dispute?

In 2011, Frederick Ward senior, made a Will dividing his estate equally between his three children Fred junior, Terry and Susan.

However, Fred junior died in 2015 and after that the family fell out leaving Mr Ward senior disappointed that he didn’t see much of his granddaughters.

In 2018 he made another Will, discounting his granddaughters and explaining the reasons why to his legal representative.

Frederick Ward senior died in 2020 aged 91 leaving almost all his estate, including his flat which was worth £450,000, to his two surviving children, Terry and Susan.

Why did the grandchildren lose this inheritance battle?

The judge said that while he could understand the granddaughters’ disappointment that Fred Ward senior had not left them their late father’s share of his estate, it was up to him.

“..the decision not to do so and to split the residue between his surviving children can hardly be said to be provision which no reasonable testator could make,” he concluded.

The case shows that however upset you may be if you are passed over in a Will, if that Will has been properly prepared and executed by a specialist solicitor you are more unlikely to have a claim.

In short, testamentary autonomy means you have the freedom to leave your estate to whoever you like.

What steps should you take if you want to cut family members out of your Will?

Being crystal clear in your Will about who is to inherit your estate is always important but never more so that when you don’t intend to leave it to your family.

Any Will can end up being challenged or contested if someone thinks they have not been left what they were promised, but a properly and professionally drawn up Will by a solicitor is likely to be far easier to defend.

How are inheritance claims solved?

If you are unhappy with a Will you may be able to  challenge its validity, for example, if the testator lacked mental capacity or bring a claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

This Act allows eligible participants to bring a claim against the estate of a deceased person where ‘reasonable financial provision’ has not been made for them under the terms of the Will or if there was no Will.

The aim of specialist contentious probate lawyers like Wards Solicitors is always to try to settle any case out of court to minimise stress, upset and costs.

Get in touch

If you would like to contest or defend a Will, the help of a specialist lawyer is vital as every case needs to be looked at on an individual basis. Time limits also apply.

For help and advice, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Contentious Trusts and Probate Team.

Our lawyers are members of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS), the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) and the Law Society’s Probate Panel. All demand an elevated level of expertise and up to date knowledge from their members.

Wards Solicitors’ is praised by the Legal 500 Guide 2024 for fielding a team of contentious probate experts regularly instructed on complex and high-value disputes and with a strong presence across the South West.

Partner Emma Kerry is highlighted as a key lawyer by the Guide.

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