Wills Disputes and Inheritance Claims
Sadly, death can drive families apart, and never more so, than when a Will is found to contain unexpected, or unusual provisions, or where those who anticipated an inheritance find they are excluded. Those closest to the person who has died, and financially reliant on them, can suddenly find they are left with little or nothing. Siblings who may not have spoken in years discover they have to work together as executors, whilst those to whom promises were made, and who relied on those promises, find that they are not honoured in the Will or, worse still, the promised Will does not exist. Where a Will fails to make reasonable financial provision for a spouse (or in limited circumstances a former spouse), partner, child, stepchild, or someone who was being financially provided for by the deceased, it is possible to ask the court to make an award of money, or property, out of the deceased’s assets. There are several factors a court will consider and legal advice before proceeding is essential. Where it can be shown that a Will maker lacked capacity, was under the coercive control of another, or did not know or understand the content of the Will they were making, or where there is evidence the Will is a forgery, or it does not comply with necessary formalities, it can be set aside upon application to court. Where the terms of a Will are unclear, the court can be asked to decide the actual meaning of the Will. We have seen this happen particularly with home-made Wills. Where promises were made that have not been honoured (even if verbal) it is possible to obtain a ruling that such promises are fulfilled, or a lump sum paid, or property transferred to put the person in a fair position. In many cases, but for different reasons, time is often of the essence. At Everys, our Will Disputes Team have decades of experience between them and will confidently and empathetically guide you through this minefield. We have dealt with many different and very varied cases over the years, but some examples appear below: –
- A claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on behalf of a spouse who had been forced out of the family home, a proportion of which it transpired was held in a discretionary trust set up many decades previously by the deceased’s mother. We assisted the widow to regain access to the property and reside there until a significant financial settlement was agreed.
- A dispute surrounding the validity of a Will which included complex trusts, made at a time when the Will maker was known to be suffering from dementia. Following agreement reached at mediation, the Will was set aside and an Inheritance Act claim by the widow was settled at the same time.
- Assisting one of three siblings in relation to promises made to him regarding inheriting the family farm. An earlier Will left the estate divided equally between the siblings, but a later Will which was never executed, honoured the original promises. This claim was compromised on the basis that our client receive a substantial sum of money to compensate him for the loss of the farmhouse and fields.
- A case where the administration of our client’s late father’s estate had been ongoing for some 16 years. As beneficiary, our client had already had advice from solicitors when he came to see us. There were a large number of issues between our client and his brother, and the executors, including promises made by his late father, monies loaned to, and owing by, the estate, the physical state of the family home, and a claim for rent against our client who was still living there. All of these were resolved at a single mediation.
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