When you make your will, you’re free to leave your money and property to anyone you like. That could be your spouse and children, or it could be the local cat’s home – in theory. Of course, the reality is a bit more complicated than that. There have been a couple of high-profile court cases in recent years, where adult children have been cut out of a parent’s will and decided to challenge it. If there’s anyone you’re leaving out of your will, here are some things to think about.
The people you need to consider
The Inheritance Act says that when you make your will you need to think about the people you live with and support financially. That could be your spouse or partner, children, stepchildren and any other dependents you might have. If someone relies on your support, you need to at least think about leaving them something. This isn’t just about avoiding leaving your loved ones high and dry. Being able to show that you’ve considered everyone shows that you have capacity to make your will.
If there’s someone that you’re leaving out of your will on purpose, it’s also important that you can explain why.
Who are you leaving out of your will and why?
People get excluded from family members’ wills for all sorts of reasons. It could be because of a family argument or because you’ve already helped someone by giving them money while you’re still alive. Banker Tony Shearer left everything to his second wife. His adult daughters (who called their father ‘The Chequebook’) challenged the will but the claim failed because the Court believed he’d paid out enough during his life. They also accepted that they would be provided for by their stepmother in her will.
A case that went to the Supreme Court back in 2015 involved Heather Ilott, whose mother cut her out of her will because she had never forgiven her for eloping. The Court decided that she should inherit something. The Court in the judgement emphasized that the relationship and behaviour between the parties was important. It is the particulars of each case that will determine what should be a reasonable provision for an adult child.
A few examples
I’ve worked with quite a few people who are leaving someone out of their will. One was a father who hadn’t spoken to his son for nearly 30 years. Another couple had decided to help their youngest son to buy a flat and felt that was his fair share of their estate. One divorced dad had handed the house over to his ex-wife and felt that should cover their children’s inheritance. The children are still under the age of 18 and so I’m not sure that argument would convince a Court – we’ll see!
If you’re excluding someone, it’s important to get good legal advice, understand the implications and take the right steps to get your paperwork in order.
What you need to do
Firstly, you need to get really clear on why you’re leaving someone out of your will. You might be estranged or have given them their inheritance already. A lump sum might leave your loved one worse off if they receive benefits. Getting clear on the details now will help me to advise you properly. If your will is challenged after you’re gone it’s important that your wishes are clear as you won’t be around to explain them.
Secondly, we’ll prepare a letter of wishes. This simply explains your reasoning, but it’s a good idea to be as detailed as possible. It won’t prevent a challenge, but it can make things a lot simpler to resolve.
Are you ready to have a chat and make your will? Get in touch using the form below or call us on 0116 380 0752.