The answer may occasionally be ‘Yes’, but that depends on what you are trying to do, and how well your Will is written and supported.
The 2015 Court of Appeal ruling on the case of Melita Jackson who disinherited her daughter completely, in favour of several animal charities, only for her wishes to be finally overruled by the courts – has left many people worried that their own wishes could be similarly disregarded even though they’ve been prudent enough to make (and to regularly review) their Will.
Mrs Jackson’s daughter, Heather Ilott, originally challenged the Will in 2007 under a right to “reasonable provision” which is contained in the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. The 2015 decision eight years later finally granted the daughter £164,000 from an estate of just under £500,000.
If you are making what could be seen as a controversial decision in your Will, it is important to have it properly drawn up and your decisions supported by evidence and explanations, usually in a supplementary ‘Letter of Wishes’.
Can you demonstrate tangible connections to the people or organisations you wish to leave your money to?
Is the person you are leaving some or all of your estate to someone you have a close relationship with (even if there is no blood tie)? Can you explain in a ‘Letter of Wishes’ attached to your will why and how this person is important to you?
In the case of leaving money or property to a charity or other organisation, can you demonstrate a connection to that charity or organisation prior to your death? Have you been a volunteer, or a regular donor/supporter?
Can you explain why you are disinheriting a close relative?
Similarly, can you give reasons why you are not including someone in a Will, even your own child? Is it simply because you disagree with their life decisions, or have they actually treated you badly in some demonstrable way?
Even after the recent ruling, adult relatives who are not living with you or financially dependent on you at the time of your death – and who are not experiencing any financial hardship – will still struggle to prove a claim, but it will be easier for them than previously.
Is your Will made properly?
Although in theory a scribbled amendment left in your bedside drawer could be presented as a legal Will if properly witnessed, it’s unlikely to be looked upon by the courts as a legal document that has been produced in a considered manner, with appropriate legal advice. This could make arguing for your wishes more difficult.
This is one of the many reasons it’s important to make a Will with proper legal consultation and to review it regularly to take account of the changes that can occur in your and your family’s lives over the years.
If you are facing a similar dilemma, click here to contact your local Just Wills and Legal Services Ltd. consultant for advice on helping to ensure that your eventual estate goes where you want it to.
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