‘Ruling could significantly weaken people’s right to leave money to those they want to inherit it, it is thought’. BBC 28 July 2015
‘People’s right to leave money in their Wills to those they want to inherit it may have been significantly weakened by a landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal’. Independent 28 July 2015
‘Judges say that your Will can be ignored’. Daily Mail 28 July 2015
These headlines appeared in this week’s press following a long running court case in which a mother disinherited her daughter in favour of three animal charities. The courts ruled that the daughter is entitled to receive part of her mother’s estate (about one third), which effectively over rules the mother’s Will and her wishes. But does it really mean that preparing your Will is a waste of time?
When making a Will there are two important principles to remember. We can leave whatever we want to whomsoever we want. However, any person who feels disinherited has the right to challenge the Will under the 1975 Dependency Act, This Act is there to help closely related people who are deemed deserving and financially impoverished. Importantly though, each case is judged on its facts.
Newspaper headlines like these will have you believe that making a Will is a waste of time, but this week’s verdict has changed nothing.
A closer look at the decision reveals that the facts of the case show an overlap between the motives of the mother’s wish to disinherit her daughter and the circumstances in which the daughter finds herself. The 1975 Act has come to the aid of the daughter, although subjectively it appears that the principle of freedom of choice, allowing the mother to disinherit her daughter, has failed.
This ruling will no doubt encourage the disinherited to make a challenge if they feel aggrieved, but it should not discourage anyone from making a Will and leaving their estate to their own choice of beneficiary.
I believe the decision emphasises two important points:
Firstly, the value of a Will still remains far greater than the consequences of Intestacy. The rules of Intestacy are fixed and very often do not benefit the ‘right’ people. I would argue the consequences of Intestacy create more issues than disinheriting someone in your Will.
Secondly, a good Willwriter has always informed their client of the consequences of disinheritance decisions, but always follows their instructions and decisions. However, they make copious notes on the instructions received and record every meeting, phone call and email. In these circumstances it should be no surprise that a potential challenge is possible, and in some cases, likely.
Making your reasons and intentions clear has never been more important, which is why you should make your Will and keep it up to date by using the services of a professional Willwriter.