Can my children dispute my Will? The latest…..

It’s legal ping pong. Ideally a man would like to be sure that his wishes on death will be
honoured. But equally ideally his closest relatives ought to be protected and not left high and dry. This insoluble enigma is always coming before the courts, but each case has its own unique facts making it impossible to rely on them as firm precedents.

Another case in this long line has added a new dimension. In Nahajec v Fowle (2017) a father
was estranged from his three daughters, so he left his entire estate to a friend who was in
financial difficulties. He left a letter with his Will explaining his reasons.

But one of the daughters also had financial difficulties and so brought a claim against the estate. She said she needed £59K to fund a planned veterinary nurse training course including her related living and travelling expenses and the discharge of some debts.

The court allowed her claim in part. It found that the estrangement was not the daughter’s fault, and made an award but limited it to £30K. There had apparently been no evidence that she had planned the veterinary course while father was alive, indeed if father had intended to include her in his will it would have been for totally different reasons. Anyway, the court recognised that the daughter might never actually take up the proposed idea of a veterinary nursing qualification.

The case followed the headline case Ilott v The Blue Cross and Ors (2017).

A solicitor in the Nahajec case commented: ‘The award was 11.3% of the estate which is very
similar to that in the Ilott case (within 1%). There was specific mention of her wanting to do a veterinary course so this is an example of something that falls under the definition of
“maintenance” post Ilott. This means that estranged child claims are not dead in the water but suggests that any claimants will need to show a track record of reconciliation attempts in order for the Judges to consider their views.’

For further advice about claims against deceased estates contact Kate Ruston at:-
Messrs Pulham & Co
Egmere House,
Market Place,
Saxmundham,
IP17 1AG
Telephone (01728) 602084 or e-mail kjr@pulham.co.uk