I was left out of my mother’s last will and I am confident this was not her intention. What can I do?

2 Sep 2020 | Jan Atkinson

Whilst testators in England and Wales are able to leave their estate to whoever they wish, we are often approached by clients who are distressed that they have been unexpectedly left out of the will of a loved one. This can be due to the testator willingly and knowingly disinheriting certain persons, but sometimes there is reason to believe that this may not have been the intention of the testator at all.

Every case is unique and the factual circumstances will vary. In these situations we will consider all routes available. The two most common routes that will be explored at the outset are:

  1. To see if evidence appears to suggest that a person was due to inherit under an earlier will which was revoked by the creation of a new will at a questionable time and/or under questionable circumstances. If it does this would call for further investigation into whether there is a potential challenge to the validity of the current will.
  2. Whether the person due to inherit could potentially bring a dependency claim against the estate under the Inheritance Act*. We would firstly consider if the person falls within one of the categories of person who are permitted to bring such a claim and whether they are within the 6month timeframe for doing so. Time starts running from the date of Grant. Any claim brought under this Act is for ‘reasonable financial provision’ and there are various tests that the Court will apply in deciding whether to make provision from the estate to the person who has been disinherited or who has not been reasonably provided for under the will

It must be noted that simply being left out of a loved one’s will does not automatically allow or entitle any person to contest the validity of a will, or to bring a claim for financial provision.  There must be supporting evidence that this was not the intention and/or it is unreasonable to have removed that person from benefiting under the will.

If testators do not wish for a particular person to benefit from their estate on their death, it is advisable that they clearly document their decision for leaving them out of their will and their reasons for doing so. Although this may not prevent a claim from being made against the will or estate it will strengthen any defence which could lessen the chance of a potential claimant pursing a claim.

If you think a loved one intended for you to benefit from their estate and it has transpired following their death that you do not, you should seek specialist legal advice immediately.

To speak with a member of the Wills, Probate and Disputed Estates team, please call 020 7485 8811 or complete an online enquiry form here

 

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