Can your Will be challenged?
A judge said that courts couldn’t decide whether or not a Will was fair
Is your Will your last word? That’s because there are certain groups of people who can go to court and make a claim on your estate if they feel they’ve been overlooked.
This particular situation happened with brothers Remo, Nino and David Rea, who had been largely written out of their mother Anna Rea’s Will.
According to Mail Online, when Anna died in 2016 at the age of 86, she left her £1m family home in London – described as “her only effective asset” – to her daughter Rita.
It was reported that Anna had a soft spot for her daughter, who cared for her during her final years.
The final copy, according to the Mail, Anna made her final Will in December 2015. She wrote:
“I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years.
I declare that my sons do not help with my care and there have been numerous calls from me, but they are not engaging with any help or assistance.
My sons have not taken care of me and my daughter Rita has been my sole carer for many years.”
Presenting their case
The Rea brothers challenged their late Mother’s Will in the High Court. In court, reported the Mail, they “argued their sister had ‘poisoned’ their mother’s mind with lies about them before she signed the document.”
The court heard further that in her previous Will, made in 1986, Anna had shared her estate equally between her sons and daughter.
Wills can be challenged in court, however, there’s no guarantee of a successful outcome and the Rea brothers lost. Reported the Mail:
“The judge has upheld the 2015 Will, saying there was no evidence to support their claims and adding that it was not his job to rule whether the Will was ‘fair’, only whether it was valid.”
The outcome is that the brothers have been left with only a small inheritance. This could be swallowed up entirely by funeral expenses.
Making a claim
Only certain categories of people can make a legal claim if they don’t agree with a Will, as defined by the 1975 Inheritance Act.
The types of claimants are published on Wikipedia:
“There are categories under which someone can make an Inheritance Act 1975 claim by virtue of their relationship at death with a person who was domiciled in England and Wales. These categories are:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Former spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or repartnered
- Person living as cohabitant
- Someone treated as a child or being financially maintained”
The requirement for making a claim is that the Will fails to make reasonable financial provision.
“This Act makes provision for a court to vary (and extend when appropriate) the distribution of the estate of a deceased person to any spouse, former spouse, child, child of the family or dependant of that person in cases where the deceased person’s Will or the standard rules of intestacy fail to make reasonable financial provision.
Such provision can be derived not just from monetary assets but from any others forming part of the estate or which have been disposed of in the six years prior to the death.”
If you’re concerned that someone might make a claim on your Will, get in touch. We can help you by writing a Will that makes it as difficult for someone to make a claim on your estate.
There are other options, like a Trust. A Trust is managed by trustees on behalf of the beneficiaries.
In this case, the assets held in a Trust are no longer owned by you, they’re not passed on via your Will. This makes it impossible for anyone to make a claim.