History is full of family feuds over inheritance and heirship and whilst mainstream TV portrayals of this in dramas such as Taboo (yes the one with Tom Hardy) and Game of Thrones may be the extreme, these types of scenario do occur and are occurring more frequently. Not only do they have financial implications on the parties involved it causes increased distress following a death and can quite literally tear a family apart.
Society itself has played a part in this with an increase in cohabiting, unmarried couples and those that do marry, doing so on multiple occasions making step children now common place. Coupled with the modern blame and claim culture people are very quick to seek legal advice following a death if they feel aggrieved by the decisions of a relative under a Will and that simply put, their entire exclusion or anything they have received has not matched their expectation.
The law makes statutory provision for certain categories of people who may potentially be able to take action if they can demonstrate that reasonable financial provision has not been made for them, namely:
- The spouse or civil partner of the deceased
- A child of the deceased
- A person treated as a child of the deceased
- A former spouse or civil partner who has not since remarried or formed another civil partnership
- Someone who lived with the deceased for at least 2 years before their death
- Someone who has been financially supported by the deceased up until their death
The crucial question is whether or not the Will (or the intestacy if no Will exists) failed to make “reasonable” provision for the person claiming against it in all the circumstances. The burden of proof is always on the claiming party to demonstrate that “reasonable” financial provision has not been made. What is "reasonable" comes down to factors such as the size and nature of the deceased's estate, the financial resources of any contestant and intended beneficiary, any obligations the deceased may have had towards the financial expenses of the person claiming and any other matter that the Court feels should be considered. In recent cases this has included a person giving up employment to care for a relative on the understanding that they would inherit from their estate and whether it was reasonable to disinherit an only child for a lifelong dispute based upon the choice of relationship partner.
Whilst "reasonable" is far from clear, what is certain is that not only is it important to make a Will, and keep it up to date, but to do so with specialist, trusted Solicitors who can ensure you have a valid Will, discuss with you potential conflicts and suggest steps that can be taken to minimise these risks, ensuring that after you are no longer here, your financial affairs are as secure as possible and your chosen beneficiaries inherit what you intend.
Alternatively, if you do feel aggrieved following the death of a loved one and wish to seek further advice about whether you might be able to seek a legal redress to this, we can also discuss your circumstances and options in more detail.
Whichever side of a dispute you may find yourself on following a death, our team can provide advice and guidance on this delicate subject and ensure that your options are clearly explained and your own interests are safeguarded. With our specialist solicitors base across our 10 offices, including York, Harrogate & Northallerton, you are never far from trusted legal advice. Contact your local team today.