Inheritance Disputes

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The courts have recently confirmed that a person’s domicile of origin is not easily displaced. Domicile is an important concept in wills and probate and issues often arise in contentious probate cases and claims under the Inheritance Act 1975. The default position is that a person receives at birth a domicile of origin. That domicile of origin remains applicable throughout a person’s life unless they require a domicile of choice. A domicile of choice arises where there is a combination of residence together...

Further to our article on 21 February 2011 we now have the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Inheritance Act case of Heather Ilott v David Mitson (& 4 others). Background The claim was brought by Heather under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from her mother, Melita’s, estate. Heather had been written out of Melita’s Will with the entire estate passing to three animal charities as a result of years of disagreement and estrangement. Heather’s...

The number of people in the UK dying intestate (without having made a Will) is falling. Between 1997 and 2006 the rate remained steady, with between 60% to 65% of people dying without Wills. However, since 2007 the level of intestacies has fallen. Roughly 54% of people dying in 2009 had not made a Will. This reflects the fact that more people are now making Wills. Interestingly, there is a significant variation between the sexes, with women being much more likely...

The courts have recently revisited the often controversial and misunderstood area of mutual Wills. It would therefore seem an ideal time to review the principles that are generally applicable:- Mutual Wills are made by two (or more) people. They are usually drafted in similar terms and they confer reciprocal benefits. They are made pursuant to an agreement between the parties to make Wills in those terms and, crucially, not to revoke them without everyone’s consent. The agreement to make them must amount...

Solicitor, Lee Dawkins, who specialises in inheritance disputes and contested wills, looks at the benefits of inheritance planning. A survey carried out by National Savings and Investments has revealed that there is widespread ignorance within families about future inheritance plans. The survey found that over one third of the population were in the dark about how their parents intended to distribute their estate. Many did not even know whether they had made a Will. Inheritance disputes frequently arise where a family has not...

Inheritance Act claims are on the increase with growing numbers of people claiming financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Consequently it is vital that people take care when making their Will in order to avoid a dispute arising after they have passed away. A recent case has highlighted how important it is that people do not act unreasonably in excluding family members from their will and that potential claimants themselves do not have unrealistic expectations when it comes...

At what point is mental capacity required when making a Will? The Court of Appeal contrasts someone's mental capacity when Will instructions are given with their mental capacity when the Will is executed The Court of Appeal has upheld a Will made by someone who had testamentary capacity at the time he gave instructions for his Will, but who had lost testamentary capacity by the time he executed it: Perrins v. Holland and others. Background to making the Will The Claimant, David Perrins, was...

A Privileged Will is an informal will which remains valid even though it does not fulfil the usual legal requirements. Privileged wills are normally written but can be oral. What distinguishes this type of Will from a conventional Will is the fact that normal formalities are dispensed with. So, a Privileged Will does not, for instance, need to be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses as is usual; in fact, there is no need for any witnesses at...

Cases involving disputed wills very often feature a Larke v Nugus statement. A Larke v Nugus statement is prepared by the Solicitor who originally prepared the disputed will or witnessed its execution. These statements are frequently requested by the Claimant’s solicitor as evidence against the validity of a will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, want of knowledge or approval or forgery. The name, Larke v Nugus, originates from a legal case that determined the law on requests...

What does ‘Intestacy’ mean? Intestacy is the legal term used when a person dies without having made a will. The Rules of Intestacy designate who is entitled to the estate. My late husband did not make a will. He has children with his ex-girlfriend and we have children of our own. He had some investments and a collection of antiques. Who will inherit his estate? As his wife you will be entitled to your husband’s personal effects, including the antiques. Under the Intestacy...