When should a person’s dying wishes be ignored?
In a case that is being keenly followed by the charity sector, a disputed will has recently been sent to the Court of Appeal to determine whether an estranged daughter is entitled to money from her mother’s estate. Rob Stubbs, Head of Dispute Resolution at Banner Jones Solicitors, 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 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.
Mr Stubbs 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. So 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.”
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