• Partner Mark Leeson who specialises in contentious trust and probate matters at the firm was recently interviewed on Sky News about a landmark case which concluded this week after an 11 year court battle with the Court of Appeal ruling that a disinherited daughter should be awarded a one third share of her mother’s estate despite the mother’s express wishes to the contrary.

    The case has significant implications on the law relating to Wills and encroaches heavily on the principle of testamentary freedom. In this case, Mrs Jackson who died in 2004 left all of her estate equally between three charities.

    Following a long feud with her daughter, Mrs Jackson expressly stated that her daughter should not benefit from her estate. She explained her reasons for this and asked her executors to fight any claim her daughter might bring in the future after her death. The daughter went on to marry her husband and had no further contact with her mother for 35 years.

    The case itself is one of a number of other recent cases that have increased the ability of adult able bodied children to claim reasonable financial provision from their parents’ estates if disgruntled with what they have been left. The case highlights that there must be a good reason for disinheriting a child and that a person must have a connection with the beneficiaries that they choose to benefit under their will; in this case Mrs Jackson had no specific connection with the charities she chose to benefit.

    The case also highlights the problems with preparing Wills without the assistance of a solicitor who can properly advise about what steps can be taken to reduce the risk of a future claim by a disgruntled child. The type of Will prepared is important and certain types of trust can help as well as accompanying letters explaining the rationale behind a particular decision.

    Two things from this case are clear, first it is extremely important that you take proper specialist advice from a solicitor if you plan to disinherit your children in your Will and second, if you are the disinherited child, you might want to take advice at an early stage to explore whether you may still be able to benefit.

    This content is correct at time of publication

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