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HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – HOW THE ADULT CHILD CAN BRING A CLAIM FOR FINANCIAL PROVISION UNDER THE INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975

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HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – HOW THE ADULT CHILD CAN BRING A CLAIM FOR FINANCIAL PROVISION UNDER THE INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975

In my previous Blog on this topic, I described that there are limited grounds to dispute or contest the validity of a Will and how an adult child can do it by bringing a claim for financial provision from his or her parent’s estate, pursuant to section 2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63)

I described the difficulties; an adult child seems to have to bring more to the table other than simply, “here I am, I am poor, therefore the estate must provide”. A moral claim justification has been held to apply, but that too has been watered down as there is no mention of any such requirement in the 1975 Inheritance Act. Nevertheless, it has been described as an element of a Will contest and Will dispute claim under the Inheritance Act 1975, so one cannot ignore it.

Given so, what does “moral claim” in Will dispute/Will contest claims under the Inheritance Act 1975 mean? It is difficult to be specific as each claim is completely different, but having discussed this with Barristers and from my own experience, I can say with reasonable certainty that it appears to involve:

• Broken promises by the deceased
• Conduct on the part of the deceased such as caring for the deceased for a considerable period and at considerable cost, but then finding oneself disinherited
• Conduct on the part of the deceased which might have led to the adult child finding himself (or herself) poor and in financial need (eg. abuse during childhood and/or a failure in parental control leading to health issues once the child became an adult)
• In other words some fault or action on the part of the parent which has helped caused his or her adult child to have some financial need

As already described, whilst useful, it is not absolutely necessary to bring forward a “moral claim” to prove your case for contesting the Will and/or disputing the Will under the 1975 Inheritance Act (as an adult child). Act”). For reference see Nahajec v Fowle [2017] Lexis Citation 270 (https://swarb.co.uk/nahajec-v-fowle-misc-18-jul-2017/) and Ball v Ball [2017] EWHC 1750 (https://swarb.co.uk/ball-and-others-v-ball-and-others-chd-2-aug-2017/).

The learned judges in Nahajec and Ball both make reference to Lord Hughes’s finding in Ilott v Mitson (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0203.html) (at [20]) that a “moral claim” is not a precondition of an award. As HHJ Matthews summarised the point (Ball v Ball), “need” is still not enough on its own and that there must be some further factor,
which may be a “moral claim” or some other circumstance. The ultimate question is whether it is reasonable for the applicant to be left without maintenance.

In Nahajec the adult child’s claim succeeded. The applicant was age 31, in straitened financial circumstances (working on zero hours’ contracts, with debts (£6600 – see para 94(c)), had an aspiration to train as a veterinary nurse and had no teenage or adult relationship with her father the decease save for a reconciliation during two years 8 years before. The lack of relationship was despite efforts by the applicant to make contact (see para 63 of the judgment). The estate with a net value of £265,710 was left to a friend of the deceased, the defendant, who also had money problems (see para 90). The award was £30,000. In addition to finding that the applicant’s desire to train as a nurse was a factor which made the lack of any provision unreasonable (at para 88), HHJ Saffmann found that so also was the fact that the applicant had sought a relationship (at para 86).

In Ball the net estate was £157,000 (see para 98). The deceased had 11 children and a grandson (see para 1). There were 3 claimants and so the difference between the estate being divided 12 ways (i.e. with the claimants included equally) or 9 ways (without the claimants) was only £4,361. The deceased, who was the mother, had excluded the claimants because they had reported their father to the police for sexual abuse (para 2). HHJ Matthews refused to characterise this decision as bad behaviour taking into account the standards of the time it was made (para 82). There was no significant discrepancy between the means of the claimants and the defendants (para 84) and an award could make little difference anyway (para 86). No award was made.

If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat..

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In Ball v Ball the court would not uphold a will dispute in which teh children had been abused by their father and the husband of the testatrix

HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – HOW HARD IS IT FOR AN ADULT CHILD TO BRING A CLAIM FOR FINANCIAL PROVISION UNDER THE INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975

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HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – HOW HARD IS IT FOR AN ADULT CHILD TO BRING A CLAIM FOR FINANCIAL PROVISION UNDER THE INHERITANCE (PROVISION FOR FAMILY AND DEPENDANTS) ACT 1975

There are limited grounds to dispute or contest the validity of a Will. By far the most common is a claim by an adult child for financial provision from his or her parent’s estate, pursuant to section 2 of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63)

If brief, in England and Wales, a parent is not obliged to leave his or her estate to their child – they can leave everything to a stranger if they see fit. This is called “freedom of testamentary disposition”. However to eliminate the difficulties this can cause (eg. where a parent dies leaving minor children disinherited) Parliament legislated to create an Act called, as mentioned, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 which could enable a Court to make financial provision for, for instance, a needy child. A minor child falls within the category of so-called favoured applicants under the Act (along with wives or husbands!). A claim by an adult child is much more difficult to justify in Will claim, Will contest or Will dispute claims. Quite simply the law (Judges) seem to regard adult children as inherently independent and therefore capable of providing for themselves. Reluctantly it seems courts have come to the realisation that many are not and will never be capable of being completely independent. In this way then and in Will contest and Will dispute claims, adult children began to find they could succeed in such claims under the Inheritance 1975 Act.

The issue was aired in great detail in the UK Supreme Court in Ilott v Mitson (The Blue Cross and others)( https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0203.html). The conclusion? Yes adult children can bring such a Will claim and/or contest a Will in this way, but the person who made the Will could provide sufficient justification for disinheriting his child to defeat such a claim where the child was not altogether blameless (for instance for an estrangement) or if the child couldn’t establish a “moral” justification to his/her claim ie something more than just a financial ground (the usual reason given is that “I am poor, in need, and therefore I must be entitled to a share of the estate). The Court said “no”, that on its own is not sufficient.

However a succession of cases both before and after Ilott above have stated in fact there is no moral requirement in the 1975 Inheritance Act in relation to Will dispute and Will contest claims. This is absolutely right. The grounds for any claim under the 1975 Inheritance Act must reflect the issues mentioned by section 3

(1). Under this section a Court considering such a claim, must consider a relatively limited menu of grounds justifying an application for financial assistance from a deceased parent’s estate. I have cut and pasted the relevant grounds below:

(a)the financial resources and financial needs which the applicant has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(b)the financial resources and financial needs which any other applicant for an order under section 2 of this Act has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(c)the financial resources and financial needs which any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased has or is likely to have in the foreseeable future;

(d)any obligations and responsibilities which the deceased had towards any applicant for an order under the said section 2 or towards any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;

(e)the size and nature of the net estate of the deceased;

(f)any physical or mental disability of any applicant for an order under the said section 2 or any beneficiary of the estate of the deceased;

(g)any other matter, including the conduct of the applicant or any other person, which in the circumstances of the case the court may consider relevant.

There no mention of moral claim anywhere. Quite obviously then, this helps creates considerable risk for each side to a Will contest and Will dispute claim, since the position seems so uncertain. It has helped to encourage these claims (by adult children). I consider this further in my next blog.

If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat.

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5 things to know about testamentary capacity

HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – THE CAPACITY REQUIRED TO MAKE ONE

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HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – THE CAPACITY REQUIRED TO MAKE ONE

There are limited grounds to dispute or contest the validity of a Will. By far the most common (which is usually the easiest to prove), is that the person making the Will (called the “testator”) lacked sufficient mental capacity to do so.

Dispelling the myths
We are often told that a particular individual cannot have had sufficient mental capacity following a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This is not necessarily the case. In reality very little “mental capacity” is required to have sufficient capacity to make a valid Will. In relation to a Will dispute or Will contest claim where the Will is being challenged, it is simply a question of degree. For instance, how bad is the loss of memory? A diagnosis of mild dementia is unlikely to lead to a successful challenge against the legal validity of a Will, unless that is, there is a severe impact on decision-making.

The primary test of capacity in Will dispute and Will contest claims
Is there a primary test of capacity in Will dispute and Will contest claims? Yes there is. It is in a very old case called Banks v Goodfellow (https://swarb.co.uk/banks-v-goodfellow-qbd-1870/) where the primary legal test of capacity was stated by Cockburn CJ:

It is essential to the exercise of such a power (of making a will) that a testator shall understand the nature of the act and its effects; shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing; shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect; and, with a view to the latter object, that no disorder of the mind shall poison his affections, pervert his sense of right or prevent the exercise of his natural faculties – that no insane delusion shall influence his will in disposing of his property and bring about a disposal of it which, if the mind had been sound, would not have been made. Here, then, we have the measure of the degree of mental power which should be insisted on. If the human instincts and affections, or the moral sense, become perverted by mental disease; if insane suspicion, or aversion, take the place of natural affection; if reason and judgment are lost, and the mind becomes a pray to insane delusions calculated to interfere with and disturb its function, and to lead to a testamentary disposition, due only to their baneful influence – in such a case it is obvious that the condition of the testamentary power fails, and that a will made under such circumstances ought not to stand.’

Whilst 1870 is a long time ago, this “test” still stands today!

The key elements of the capacity test in Will dispute and Will contest claims
So what are the key elements of the capacity test in Will dispute and Will contest claims?

1. That a testator shall understand the nature of the act and its effects

This ought to be straight-forward. The testator or the person making the Will must understand the purpose of the Will and what it will do; in other words that the Will governs what happens to their money and property after they die.

So far so good. But….

2. Shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing

This is one of the most difficult areas in Will dispute and Will contest claims where many of the challenges against the legal validity of a Will are made. The context is this. An aged individual making a Will close to death is often not in apparent control of their finances and often because their health issues (eyesight, hearing and/or mobility) make it impossible for them to do so. PLEASE NOTE I have been careful here not to mention a condition which might adversely affect their so-called mental capacity. So, where one is challenging the legal validity of a Will, it is immediately possible to spot a difficulty where there is physical incapacity but not necessarily mental incapacity in relation to a Will dispute claim. The issue is that the individual with a physical incapacity and who has handed over the control of his or her finances to someone else because of their physical incapacity, might not then have an immediate and comprehensive understanding of the extent of his or her property even though mental capacity is retained. With this in mind, Judges appear to have watered down the requirement to actually understand the full extent of his or her property:

The requirement to know the extent of one’s estate does not mean knowing its value down to the last penny. Furthermore, evidence is not necessarily required of a testator’s actual understanding, but rather of a capacity to understand these matters. Legally, capacity can be acquired via suitable explanation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1925203/)

3. shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect; and, with a view to the latter object, that no disorder of the mind shall poison his affections, pervert his sense of right or prevent the exercise of his natural faculties ..

This is usually the most fertile area of disputes and with some evidence of a strange or unusual decision by the person making the Will (who for instance leaves his or her estate to a neighbour or distant and hitherto unknown relative or “friend”), is often the source of considerable debate in Will contest and Will dispute claims. Afterall a “disorder of the mind” might only be a mild dementia or other mental health condition such as depression. The problem, as ever, is in proving it has affected the Will makers decision making process. Although some evidence might point one way, it is almost guaranteed that the opponent or defendant to the claim will produce evidence pointing the other which creates considerable risk for the individual challenging the legal validity of the Will on this basis.

If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat.

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Applyoing for probate can seem daunting - we can offer light at the end of the tunnel

WHY DID THE EARL’S WILD CHILD LOSE HER CLAIM TO A SHARE OF HIS £1.3M FORTUNE

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This unfortunate case is reported in The Times and a number of papers. An earl’s daughter who “hated” her family’s aristocratic lifestyle has lost her attempt at claiming a larger share of his £1.3m fortune (she appears to have been left only £20,000 by his Will and she might well have lost that to legal costs as well).
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/earl-s-wild-child-daughter-lady-tara-wellesley-loses-claim-to-share-of-1-3m-fortune-d5k02hhl8

In The Times report a number of facts are mentioned which seem to have played a part in her losing the will contest claim that she brought. For instance:
• A “drink and drug lifestyle”
• A mutual estrangement (and a finding by the court that it was “due to Tara’s conduct alone”)
• She had “hated the aristocratic life” and the family’s “superior attitudes”
• Her disruptive “behaviour”
• “years of wasted assistance” by her father

1. WHAT SORT OF WILL DISPUTE CLAIM WAS THIS AND WHY DID IT FAIL?
This is most likely to have been a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 – see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63
In England and Wales there is freedom of testamentary disposition. This means that a mother or father can leave his or her estate to anyone (not necessarily their children). Lady Wellesley appears to have been a victim of this. Whilst she was left something it seems (£20,000), it was only a relatively modest part of this large estate.
The Inheritance Act ’75 referred to above gives the Court discretion to make additional awards to disappointed beneficiaries who are close to the deceased. It can be seen that this discretion can be influenced by lifestyle, the sympathy of the Court towards the Claimant and most importantly to the question of whether an estrangement was the cause and if so whose fault it was. In this instance it would appear the Court took against Lady Wellesley in a material way so that her will contest claim failed.

2. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A JUST CAUSE FOR THE DISINHERITANCE IN A WILL DISPUTE AND WILL CONTEST CLAIM
This is clearly demonstrated in Lady Wellesley’s case. The Judge seems to have found the estrangement “was due to Tara’s conduct alone”. It made the Judge extremely reluctant to interfere with the Testator’s freedom to leave his estate as he wished. The leading case (in will contest claims of this type) of Ilott v Mitson 2017 supports this approach:
https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2015-0203.html
However it also says the court should be cautious in attributing blame for the estrangement to either party, which also makes it a little confusing. What we learn from this in will dispute and will contest cases is that there is a significant risk attached to each side of the will dispute. To be clear, the risk, as in all civil claims of this type, is that if the claim is lost, the loser will pay the winner’s costs which can be significant – in excess of £50,000 in cases of this nature (and of course the loser will have to pay his own costs too unless he instructed his lawyers under a no win no fee arrangement).

3. HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO GUARD AGAINST THE RISK OF LOSING IN A WILL DISPUTE AND WILL CONTEST CLAIM OF THIS TYPE
I list the possible options, starting with the most important:
• Negotiate a resolution – if you go to trial you give up control to an individual who only meets you on a given day in artificial circumstances (at a trial) and who may not actually like you, your lawyers and your case
• Your lawyers should advise you on costs and risk as the claim proceeds – listen to them!
• It is possible to buy an element of protection against the risk of losing by taking on ATE insurance (“after the event” insurance) which can operate in the same way as a no win no fee arrangement; however it has a number of pitfalls:
– Whilst only paid if you win, the premiums can be huge (for instance £20,000 to £40,000 is not uncommon) and will come straight off any money you win (conversely, you won’t pay anything if you lose);
– The protection provided might be limited (for instance in a recent matter I obtained protection amounting to only about £46,000 including our own disbursements which was likely to be considerably less than the likely costs of the Defendant which were predicted to exceed £75,000)
– It might encourage you (and the Defendant) to a trial when really you should be settling (negotiating a resolution)
If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat.

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legal texts may be of use in your will dispute. If you reach court, a judge will be involved to decide what the outcome should be.

CONTESTING A WILL UNDER A NO WIN NO FEE ARRANGEMENT – WHICH WILL DISPUTE CASES ARE WE MOST LIKELY TO WIN

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1. DO YOU WORK ON EVERY SINGLE WILL DISPUTE CASE WHICH IS REFERRED TO YOU?
We will only work on a will dispute and will contest case where we think we can win it. This means that the no win no fee arrangement in will dispute and will contest claims operates as a natural filter to ensure that our clients do not waste time in dealing with a contest over a will or estate, where there is no or little chance of success.

2. BUT HOW CAN YOU BE CERTAIN THAT YOU CAN WIN A WILL DISPUTE AND WILL CONTEST CLAIM AND WHEN?
The simple truth is that when a potential client approaches us with a dispute about a will and/or estate, we don’t know whether we can win the consequent will dispute and will contest claim, since we are not able to test the facts and the potential client is unlikely to have the significant paperwork. We are completely reliant on what the client tells us, although it is possible for us to supplement the information that they provide about the will dispute and will contest claim they are involved in with some research of our own. For instance, we (and indeed anyone) can carry out the following searches:
1. “Google” in relation to the addresses of relevant properties and other matters;
2. The government search facility for probate records (to obtain copies of the Grant and Will) (https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate);
3. The Land Registry to determine who owns a property and when it was sold (https://www.gov.uk/search-property-information-land-registry).
These often reveal telling amounts of information about key facts in the will dispute and will contest claims.
Ultimately, if our client or potential client exaggerates key facts concerning the will dispute and will contest claims, then it is likely that our judgment about whether it can be won will be adversely affected and the will claim is likely to fail as a result. Unfortunately this can happen, in particular where the individual concerned has learned from earlier failed enquiries with competitors, which facts are helpful and which are not. Unfortunately, it will not assist in determining the eventual outcome as the most important filter of flawed or exaggerated claims is the claims process itself and in particular the opposition or potential defendants.
It follows that when we decide to take on a will claim, will dispute and/or will contest claim, we don’t have all of the necessary information at hand to be certain of a win. Clearly there will have been enough relevant material to confirm the will contest claim can be won. However, it will become clear within a matter of months at the most, whether a win is likely
to be certain. It follows there will be a number which we decide cannot be won at which point the claim is stopped.

3. SO WHAT FACTS AND/OR OTHER MATTERS ARE LIKELY TO PERSUADE YOU TO TAKE ON A WILL DISPUTE/WILL CONTEST CLAIM UNDER A NO WIN NO FEE ARRANGEMENT?
What follows is a very general list of facts and matters which might persuade us that a particular will contest and will dispute claim is likely to be won:
• We are being told the truth about the will dispute claim (we trust the client!)
• There is real value in the will dispute claim (we cannot survive otherwise regardless of your views of the merits of Solicitors earning money) so the estate has to have a reasonable value
• In a will claim where the key contention is that the will is not legally valid there is likely to be supporting and weighty independent evidence (for instance the evidence from medical records and/or of treating doctors that an individual had Alzheimer’s or Dementia of sufficient severity at the time the will was made). Self-serving evidence from our client and/or his or her acquaintances is unlikely to be helpful unless it points us to possible independent evidence from elsewhere
• A case where there is large degree of discretion (leeway) in the hands of the Court as to the outcome (for instance, a claim for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63)
Why? Quite simply because this creates a considerable degree of risk (for each side), it is more likely to be possible to achieve a settlement
• The potential client to the will dispute and will contest case has nothing to lose as well (because he or she has no assets) and is determined to pursue the claim because this will mean it is more likely to be possible to achieve a settlement (your opponent in this case could be faced with ever increasing costs and associated risks which are never likely to be recoverable). However this does not mean we won’t work for someone who has assets! Every case has elements which are positive and negative; we have to form a view on the balance of the facts before us, so please don’t be put off approaching us with your enquiry!

If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat.

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