A recent Court of Appeal ruling could hinder an individual’s right to leave money to who they wish in their will.
A woman disinherited her estranged daughter and cut her from her will and left her entire estate to charity. The daughter has now been awarded a £164,000.00 inheritance which equates to one third of the estate.
The daughter became estranged from her mother when she eloped at seventeen. Her mother, the deceased, never forgave her and did not want her to inherit her estate. She therefore made a will disinheriting her daughter and leaving her entire estate to three charities: the RSPCA, RSPB and the Blue Cross.
The deceased made her will in 2002 with an accompanying letter to explain why she had disinherited her daughter.
The claim was initially brought in 2007 under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The claim was brought against the charities and the personal representatives of the deceased (the personal representatives played no part in the litigation).
District Judge Million initially held that the will had not made reasonable provision for the deceased’s daughter. When considering the value of her claim, District Judge Million awarded a lump sum of £50,000. It was held that she had been "unreasonably" excluded from her mother’s will.
When the deceased’s disinherited daughter appealed to get the amount increased, Mrs Justice Parker dismissed this at the High Court in London, ruling in March 2014 that the previous decision awarding £50,000 was appropriate and could not "be said to be wrong".
In the latest hearing Lady Justice Arden said the deceased had been "unreasonable, capricious and harsh" and ruled she should receive a greater proportion of the estate. The charities still have opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The eight year legal battle is feared to undermine the right to leave money to who you wish especially when considering disinheriting children.
The Judges in the latest case said their decision was influenced by the fact the deceased had little association with the animal charities who benefited from her legacy. It is therefore evident that individuals, especially if disinterring anyone in their will, should ensure that that they provide reasons for their actions and also explain why and what connection they had to those they do leave money or assets to.
If this situation sounds familiar, you have any similar concerns and think you may have suffered a disinheritance requiring advice on making a claim against a deceased’s estate, please contact Lynsey Harrison of Clarion’s Disputed Wills, Trust and Probate team on 0113 336 3388.
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