Do we have a “right” to Inheritance?
It has been reported in the press recently that the High Court in London has seen an increase in the number of claims being brought by family members who believe they have not had sufficient provision made for them in the Will of a relative.
116 claims were made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 in 2015 compared to just 15 in 2005 (this does not take in to consideration those claims settled out of court or at a lower level). Under the Act, certain family members and those who were financially dependent on the deceased during their lifetime can make a claim for support from the estate if they have either been completely excluded or do not consider sufficient provision has been made for them.
With a change in family dynamics such as multiple marriages and couples choosing to cohabit and not marry, there are now more people who may feel that inheritance was a “right” and that they have been unfairly excluded.
In the July 2015 case of Ilot v Mitson, the High Court awarded the unemployed daughter of the deceased a one third share of the estate despite the deceased mother having left everything to a number of charities.
Many practitioners felt that this was contrary to the testamentary freedom that we have in England and Wales which allows a person to leave their estate to whoever they chose and in any manner they wish. There is however a debate that a person should also consider the “moral” side of things and whether they should leave their spouse/children something in their will despite any issues that may have arisen during their relationships. It is a very emotive issue.
In a more recent case the court dismissed a claim by the deceased’s adult daughter with the judge citing her unemployment as a “lifestyle choice” and stating that as she was fit and able to work she should not be entitled to any of her parent’s estate.
These cases show that making a will to suit each person’s own circumstances can sometimes be a complex matter and not always as simple as it may appear. It is therefore important that the correct legal advice is sought to ensure that your wishes will be followed and not challenged after death.