Can a person’s dying wishes be ignored?

Partner Chris Matthews comments on a case that was keenly followed by the charity sector.  A disputed will has been sent to the Court of Appeal to determine whether an estranged daughter is entitled to money from her mother’s estate,  Chris said, “This case will examine in detail the extent to which a person’s wishes, as written into their will, should be honoured”.

In the case in question, a woman left the entirety of her £500,000 estate to three animal charities. She made clear that she did not want any of her estate to go to her daughter with whom she had been estranged for over 25 years. Indeed, she explicitly advised her daughter of this decision and also instructed her executors to challenge any claim made by the daughter.

The daughter contested the will and was awarded £50,000. The daughter appealed the amount, but it was upheld by the Court of Appeal. A subsequent appeal raised the award to £164,000; with the Court saying that this was to enable the daughter to purchase her housing association property without losing her means-tested benefits. Now the three charities have been granted permission to bring a further appeal in what will be the first major test of the Inheritance Act 1975, which allows for wills to be varied in the context of provision for family and dependents.

Chris comments “The most important question that the case will address is what the word ‘maintenance’ means for the purposes of the Act. The Act is designed to permit judges to alter a parent’s will if they need to do so in order to provide for a child’s maintenance needs. It will be interesting to see the degree to which this is deemed relevant to an adult child that has been estranged for a long period.”

If you would like assistance with your will or an inheritance matter call Chris on 02392 551 500 for further information.

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