Posted on 5.5.16 by Danielle Clements
A Will of a woman who left £13 million solely to animal charities has been successfully challenged by the family she left behind. The family’s identity and location has been kept anonymous but we do know that the challenge was mounted by one of the deceased’s children.
The woman, according to her Will, wanted to leave her entire £13 million estate to unnamed animal welfare charities, despite not showing any previous interest in animals. A case was built and the Will was successfully overturned. It’s reported that the woman had previously made seven different Wills leaving differing amounts of money to a range of people, including one which left the entire estate to her family. It was her final Will, the one that counts, which stated that she wanted the animal charities to receive her estate.
The case was resolved at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in London, leaving £8 million of the estate to go to the child/family who challenged the Will with the remaining £5 million being shared out equally amongst five charities of the family’s discretion.
Grounds to challenge a Will?
A Will can be contested on a number of grounds, which are discussed in our previous blog here, but it’s thought this one was disputed for the reason that the testator lacked the necessary mental capacity. A challenge can also be brought forward if ‘reasonable provision’ has not been made, but this can only be disputed by certain people, such as the deceased’s spouse, a child or cohabitant of the deceased amongst a few others.
Why can’t you leave your money to whoever you want?
This case will no doubt wrangle with a few people who will say, ‘Well why can’t the woman leave her estate to whoever she wants?’ In most cases this is still true and making a Will undoubtedly gives you the choice of who you want your money and assets to go to.
However, the grounds of ‘reasonable provision’ does muddy the waters somewhat and allows disgruntled children to stake a claim if they feel like they have been hard done by. There was a famous case last year involving Heather Ilott who was cut off by her mother many decades before she died. The mother then left her half a million estate to three animal charities and nothing to Mrs Ilott who she hadn’t spoken to in years. However, in very similar circumstances to this more recent case, the judge decided that the mother had no connection with the animal charities during her lifetime and in a fairly ground-breaking ruling Mrs Ilott received £164,000.
More and more Wills are being disputed and the facts are there to see, with Will challenges nearly doubling from 2013 to 2014. It now seems that the judge’s discretion is all-important and any outcome can be achieved whether it involves children remaining disinherited or successfully challenging the legal document, like in this case.
Let Gorvins help
If you would like to speak to me about disputing a Will or another litigation matter you can call me on 0343 507 5151 or send an email addressed to me to firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have an expert team of Wills solicitors who can draft a watertight Will to limit your exposure to disputes.