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If you live in England and Wales and you want to make a Will you have testamentary freedom to leave your property and possessions to any person or organisation, such as a charity, with no legal obligation to leave anything to your family. The law only dictates the destination of your estate to your family if you die without a Will, known as dying intestate.
However a recent Court of Appeal case has challenged this testamentary freedom, particularly where independent adult children have been disinherited in a Will. In this case Heather Ilott, who had been estranged from her mother Melita Jackson for over 25 years before her death, successfully challenged her mother’s Will from which she had been excluded in favour of three animal charities. Mrs Jackson left a letter making it clear that she did not want her daughter to receive anything but nevertheless the court awarded Mrs Ilott a one-third share of the estate amounting to £164,000.
So why did this happen? Mrs Ilott was able to bring her claim under the little known 1975 Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, which allows a deceased’s dependants to make a claim for reasonable financial provision if the Will does not adequately provide for them.
There has been an increase in recent years to the number of Wills being contested. The law is still evolving and each case is looked at individually but in the light of this recent decision there are some vital steps you should take minimise any dispute regarding your Will:-
Contact a member of the Wills team at BMA Law on 0300 123 2014 to get the right Will drafted for you.
Helene Bryant, BMA Law wills expert
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