One of the most important reasons to make a Will is to ensure that your assets pass to everyone you wish to benefit after your death. However, it is just as important to consider the implications of leaving a family member or dependent out of your Will.
Case Update: Lewis v Warner
In the recent case of Lewis v Warner, an elderly woman who had been cohabiting with her partner for some 20 years left her entire estate (including the house, owned in her sole name) to her only daughter. Her Will made no provision for her partner to stay in the property and so the daughter tried to evict him. He counterclaimed under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, and the Court granted him the option to purchase the property at market value.
This case is particularly interesting because the deceased’s partner was of independent means and would have been able to purchase a replacement property from his own funds – he was not financially dependent on the deceased. However, the Court found that due to his age and the support network he had locally (in addition to the contributions he had made to the upkeep of the property), it was not reasonable to expect him to move and provision should be made for him to remain in the house. This contrasts with the highly publicised case of Ilott v Mitson which focused strongly on the deceased’s estranged daughter’s low income and her need for financial provision from the estate. The decision in this case may broaden the scope for claims for maintenance from a deceased’s estate.
Letter of Wishes
If you are considering leaving a family member or dependent out of your Will, it is important to write a clear letter of wishes explaining the reasons for your decision in a positive way. Although such a letter will not be determinative of any potential claim, it will be good evidence of your intentions for those defending your estate in the event a dispute does arise.