Probate and Will, Trust & Estate Disputes

Being cut out of a parent’s will

I was instructed by a lady in her 20s, whose father had died suddenly after a short illness. She had not long left university and, with a very modest income, was largely still being financially supported by her father. She had a credit card in his name that he allowed her to freely use for expenses such as petrol and grocery shopping.  He paid off any outstanding balance on the card each month.

My client was one of three children. Their father had divorced their mother a number of years before, and remarried. Her father had a Will, which left everything to his second wife. Only in the event that the wife passed away first, was the father’s property to pass to my client and her siblings.  In practice, though my client’s father was a wealthy man, my client and her siblings were not set to inherit anything given that their father pre-deceased his wife.

My client and her siblings had a great relationship with their father.  They couldn’t believe that their father had disinherited them. He had specifically promised that he would leave them the family home that they had grown up in.  This made them suspicious as to whether he had been influenced into leaving everything to his second wife.  They started doubting the validity of the Will.

I registered a caveat against the estate of my client’s late father, which prevented a Grant of Probate being extracted.  I wrote a Larke v Nugus letter to the solicitors who had prepared the Will. A Larke v Nugus letter is a request that a Will Writer explains the circumstances, in which the instructions for preparation of the Will were received, including steps the Writer took to ensure that the instructions were being given freely and not under the influence of others.

I received a response from the solicitor, which included the attendance notes from the meeting they had with my client’s late father. The notes included candid comments from their father that he was leaving everything to his wife, because both he and his wife expected her to pass away first, given that she was suffering with ill-health and was significantly older than him.  He did not wish to disinherit his children.  He actually expected them to receive everything as he did not expect to pre-decease his wife.

My client intimated a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975, on the basis that her father had not left reasonable financial provision for her maintenance.  Her siblings decided not to bring a claim as they were older and their financial circumstances were much better than my client’s. My client’s claim was based on the fact that though an adult, she was being maintained by her father, given that without his financial assistance each month, she would be living in a significant deficit.

After a period of correspondence with my client’s step-mother, she agreed to attend a mediation to prevent my client having to issue court proceedings. My client already had very limited financial means, and so the cost of such proceedings would have been inhibitive in any event. The matter settled at mediation.  We agreed to vary the Will of my client’s late father.  It was agreed that half of the family home would be held on trust for my client and her two siblings, with the stepmother receiving a life interest in it. My client also received £100,000, with which she was able to pay off her debts and get on the property ladder. I was pleased to be able to settle this sad case to the benefit of my client without the need for costly court proceedings to be issued.

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