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London Courts Face ‘Explosion’ In Cases Of Children Battling Over Parents’ Wills

Nia Wharry, Partner & Head of Wills & Estate Planning

– Courts in London face an “explosion” in the number of legal battles over the validity of wills, as top judges prepare to make a landmark ruling on a woman’s fight over an inheritance, lawyers have warned.

The Supreme Court is due to rule on whether benefits claimant Heather Ilott is entitled to £146,000 from the estate of her estranged mother, who died in 2004.

Since then, Ms Ilott, from Great Munden, Hertfordshire, has been in a bitter legal battle with animal charities which received a bequest of almost £500,000, arguing that she is entitled to some money despite her mother’s final wishes.

The Supreme Court heard final submissions in December and reserved judgment.

We are increasingly finding as practitioners that our clients are becoming worried about certain individuals, such as estranged family members, bringing a potential claim against their estate (hereinafter referred to as “applicants”).

When making such a claim, the law is very specific on who can bring the claim and whether an award can be made from the estate to an individual. For instance the Court will consider whether an adequate provision has been made under the terms of the Will or under intestacy and, if so, where that applicant is an adult child that child can bring a claim. The Court will consider if a reasonable financial provision should be made. In doing so the Court will look at various factors for example the size of the estate, the applicant’s circumstances, whether there was any unreasonable conduct against the applicant to name but a few. The Court will refer extensively to the Inheritance Act 1975 and case law.

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