‘I’ll leave all my money to Battersea Dog’s Home!’ was the traditional threat to difficult children.
English law has traditionally allowed you to leave your money to whoever you jolly well like, and that power has caused many an upset after the dear one has departed – in novels, in films and in real life too. What you have to leave has been seen as your own money to do what you like with and, however surprising, a valid Will was pretty much written in stone. A clear, unanswerable last message of disapproval, or vengeance, or favouritism or whatever, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
‘Testamentary freedom’ it was called. The only real exception has been if someone could claim that they were a dependant and should have been provided for, under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Widows or widowers or children can make a claim on the estate if the Will does not make ‘such reasonable provision as it would be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for a husband or wife to receive.’ This has been seen as very limited and to override a Will financial dependence has to be clearly shown.
However, a recent case has thrown into doubt the right to leave your money where you like. Two years before her death a Mrs Jackson made her Will and was very clear indeed that she did not want her daughter to have anything. The daughter had run away with her boyfriend when she was 17 and her mother had never forgiven her, and not even seen her for over twenty years. It was all well documented and there was nothing for the daughter in the Will. The money was left to charity instead.
The daughter brought a claim, and there has been widespread surprise and concern that the Judge chose to overrule the Will and give the daughter a large slice of the estate. She was an able-bodied adult and had not been dependent on her mother for many years. The Judge just seemed to think that the daughter should have been left the money, and was unconvinced that Mrs Jackson felt any real goodwill towards the charities. Presumably he doesn’t believe in ghosts either!
We are now in the situation that if you leave someone in your family out of your Will it may be overturned when you are no longer there to say anything about it. This means your Will is now more likely to be challenged and that can really hold up the process of paying out to those who are in your Will.
So, if you do want to leave money to those other than your nearest and dearest, leaving them out altogether or not leaving them as much as they expected, special care needs to be taken to give it the best chance that your wishes will be obeyed. We will advise you on a letter to put with your Will, giving the right details about why you want to leave someone out, and just why you are leaving money to other people, charities etc. This will help to defend the Will and hopefully put off anyone minded to contest it. If you are leaving something to them, we can put in your Will that if they argue with that then they won’t get anything at all! It’s worth a try to put them off.
Then hopefully you can RIP with confidence that your money will go where you want it to go and your Will will not be rewritten later on by a disapproving Judge.