What Happens When you Contest a Will? Example Cases – Part II

As previously dealt with, we have been producing a number of articles on, how can a disheartened beneficiary contest a will, or make a claim under what is known as the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

It may assist if the basic precis of certain cases given, as either often make it clearer than the actual technical law.

Another case that is considered as a core case, is the case known as ‘Rea v Rea’. This is a recent case where a ruling by the High court, which determined that a claim brought by the three sons for a share of their mother’s 1 million home, was unsuccessful. Mrs Rea died in July 2016 at the age of 86, and her final will which she made in 2015, she left her South London home, which was her main asset and worth roughly 1 million, to her daughter Rita. She had left a note with her will which stated that her sons did not help with her care, in comparison with her daughter who had been her sole carer for many years, and therefore if any of her sons challenged her will, she wanted any claim on them to be defended on the basis she did not believe they should have a share of her estate.

It was found that her 2015 will replaced an earlier will in 1986, which had left her entire estate to be shared equally between the four children. The sons who were written out of their mother’s will, brought a claim on the basis that their sisters had ‘poisoned’ their mums mind, by claiming the sons had abandoned their mother, so that she could solely inherit the family home. They relied on the grounds of ‘undue influence’ and made an application to strike out the 2015 will, and reinstate the earlier will made by their mother in 1986.

Various evidence was brought as to the claims made by the sons. It was ruled that Mrs Rea was very strong minded, and at the time she made her revised will, it was clear that she knew what she was doing. Therefore, her mind had not been influenced, and she made the decision to write her sons out of her will on her own accord.

More recently, there has been yet another case in the public eye, were a 77 year old had brought a claim against his niece, Lady Natalie Wackett, for half a share of his father’s 2.4 million estate, on the basis that he was written out of the will for being an ‘unwanted baby’.

He was born during World War II while his father was serving in the RAF, and at the time his parents were unmarried. It was for this reason that his parents grew to resent him and favoured his siblings instead.

Mr Johnston, the claimant said, his parents always resented him, and his mother often told him that she ‘would have been a Hollywood star if it wasn’t for you’ as she had always dreamed of being on screen. It was relevant however, that his father had promised that the income generated by the family business would ‘provide me with an income for life’.

As he grew older, the relationship continued to be strained between Mr Johnston and his father, which led to his father cutting him out of the family inheritance, and instead leaving all his inheritance to his granddaughter.

Mr Johnston argued that he was hard up, and worked as a bus driver to keep afloat. This is in comparison to his niece who had been given her grandparents entire fortune, and the family business.

Lady Wackett in comparison argues that he was not an ‘unwanted war baby’ and was loved by his family. Her case is that his gambling habit, along with cheating the family business, is what drove the family apart. In addition, he had not looked after his parents as they grew older, did not reconcile with them, or even attend their funerals.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, this case continues as it is likely to be appealed. We will however, produce a final conclusion once the case has been determined.

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