Wills and inheritance disputes can be a particularly tricky and sensitive area of law. Handling upset after a friend or relative has died, together with such a dispute can be even more challenging.
Wills and inheritance disputes can involve challenging the validity of a will or defending someone else who is trying to challenge the will.
Wills and inheritance disputes can also involve the overwhelming feeling that you were not properly provided for in someone’s will following their death, or someone died without a will and you consider that you should be provided for.
When a person dies without a will, their estate is distributed under the intestacy rules. There is a strict order of who inherits the estate, governed by law. This means that only direct family members can inherit. It is often the case that this leads to complication in situations where there are multiple marriages and divorces, dependent adults, unmarried partners and cohabitees. Financial dependents who do not inherit pursuant to the intestacy rules may be able to make a claim.
Claiming under the Inheritance Act 1975
They may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The law allows close family members and dependents to apply to the Courts for reasonable financial provision from the estate, where there is inadequate provision in the will. Here, the will remains in place but the law protects individuals in certain circumstances. The Court’s award will depend very much on the individual facts.
In the case of Ilott v Blue Cross & Others, the deceased expressly excluded her estranged adult daughter, Mrs Ilott, from any benefit under her will by a written letter of wishes. Instead, she chose to leave her estate of £486,000 to three animal charities of her choice.
Mrs Ilott made a claim for financial provision from her mother’s estate, and on appeal, she was awarded £143,000 and a further £20,000 for ongoing maintenance. On further appeal to the Supreme Court, this decision was overturned and the Court reduced the award to Mrs Ilott to £50,000.
In the recent case of Gee v Gee, the Court found in favour of a son who was cut out of a promised inheritance of farmland worth in the region of £8m. John worked on his father’s farm since the 1970s for low pay, and gave up his own career, in reliance on his father’s promise that he would receive “the lion’s share” of the farm. Before he died, the father transferred the asset to his other son, Robert in 2014. Despite this, the Court awarded John a 52% controlling interest in the farm, and 48% interest in the land.
There are other circumstances under which an individual who has not been provided for under the intestacy rules may be able to claim. If an individual relied on the deceased’s assurance of property and acted to his detriment as a result, the Courts have jurisdiction to enforce the promise and order that the property is transferred from the estate to the individual, even if the will does not provide for this.
Why choose Edwards Duthie Shamash?
Edwards Duthie Shamash recognises and appreciates that handling wills and inheritance disputes can be highly sensitive and must be handled with care. We will work with you establish whether litigation via the Court or other Dispute Resolution with the involved parties is the right remedy for you and we can tailor our advice and assistance to your needs.
Whether you are a beneficiary, executor, trustee or not a party to the will, or if there is not a will, if you are in any doubt in relation to the deceased’s estate then you should not hesitate to contact Edwards Duthie Shamash on 0208 514 9000 and speak to our specialist Contentious Probate lawyers for an initial telephone consultation.