Is your will open to challenge?
An estranged daughter has recently challenged and succeeded in a claim for part of her late mothers estate after being disinherited by her mother.
When her mother died she made it absolutely clear in her will that she did not want her daughter to inherit any of her estate and instead left her estate to animal charities with which she had little connection. The mother and daughter were estranged after their relationship broke down when the daughter, who was 17 at the time, eloped with a man who later became her husband.
The English Court of Appeal awarded the daughter approximately 30 per cent of her mother’s estate despite having been estranged from her mother for about 26 years because her mother hadn’t left “reasonable provision” for her in the will.
The mother died in 2004 leaving £486,000.00 in her will to various Animal Charities, including the RSPC and RSPB and Blue Cross, but nothing to her estranged daughter.
This was an increase from the initial award of £50,000.00 from a lower court.
The daughter’s financial circumstances were poor. She was married with 5 children lived in poverty in a Housing Association house and relied on state benefits.
The daughter made a claim against the mother’s Estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 that her mother had not made reasonable financial provision for her. The equivalent legislation on the Island is the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1982. While this judgment is not directly applicable on the Island it is very likely to be followed by the Island’s courts.
The Court held that the fact of her estrangement from her mother ought not to deprive her of an award or substantially diminish it because it was difficult to apportion fault.
The judge described the mother as “unreasonable capricious and harsh” and had “unreasonably excluded “her daughter from her will.
The three charities said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the judgment.
It is now advisable for people who make wills to be particularly careful in drafting them and to explain why they have left money to particular parties and what connection they have with these parties. The judgment will make it easier for adult children who feel that they have been “disinherited” to challenge wills and claim greater sums by way of reasonable provision.