Wayne Barnett shares some recent real-life scenarios involving Wills and inheritance disputes that demonstrate the vital role of up-to-date Wills in legacy planning.
McLean v McLean 2023
Reginald and Maureen executed “mirror“ Wills on 23rd June 2017 leaving their joint estate on second death to the four children they had between them in equal shares.
During the process of writing the Wills, Maureen said that she would not change her Will and disinherit Reginald’s children.
Reginald was advised that there was nothing to stop her doing so, but he was adamant that he trusted her implicitly.
However, subsequent to Reginald passing away, Maureen did precisely that and his children took court action against Maureen in an endeavour to recover their “entitlement”.
The judge, Mr Justice Mann, said that “there was no binding contractual agreement between Reginald & Maureen not to revoke their Wills - expectation or trust is not enough.”
One solution to this scenario is to create what are known as “mutual Wills”, where Wills may not be revoked without the written agreement of both parties. A restrictive solution, but one which may be appropriate in certain circumstances.
Rea v Rea 2023
Mrs Rea died on 26th July 2016 aged 85. She had four children and in 1986 had appointed a son to be her executor and split her estate four ways.
In 2015, she made a new Will appointing her daughter Rita as executor and leaving her entire estate solely to Rita.
The 2015 Will included the following clause: “I declare that my son do not help IHT my care, they don’t reply to my calls & don’t engage with any help or assistance. As Rita has been my sole carer for many years, I do not wish them to share in my estate”.
The first judge, Jonathan Arkush, with whom I am friendly, stated that the Will was valid. An appeal by the sons was dismissed, however they were allowed to appeal to the Court of Appeal which decided in favour of the sons and the 2015 Will was declared invalid.
Mr Justice Hodge KC declared “that this was a case of undue influence exercised by coercion.”
Wilkinson & Ors v Hicken 2023
The High Court rejected a claim against the estate of £5.3M of Norman Gill who left his entire estate to a a list of charitable institutions to benefit the people of Leicester to the exclusion of his children and grandchildren.
In 1979 he was charged with (and pleaded guilty) to conspiring to murder his wife, Mary and was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Relationships with his children deteriorated - his 2015 Will benefitted them, but a new Will written in 2018 left them only £5,000 each and nothing to his grandchildren. His daughter
challenged his Will on the basis he had lost testamentary capacity.
The judge found that whilst Mr Gill’s decision to disinherit his children and grandchildren may be regarded as unfair, the decision was not irrational and there were no circumstances which gave rise to suspicion that the Will did not reflect Mr Gill’s intention at the time of execution.
Lattimer v Karamanoli 2023
The High Court has been asked to consider a strike out application with the primary question as to whether a Will made the day before the deceased married and shortly thereafter she had died, had been revoked. Normally a marriage annuls a previous Will unless the forthcoming marriage is referred to in the Will.
Evi Kalodiki was terminally ill with cancer. On 17th December 2018, she was admitted to St John Hospice in London. She executed a Will on 27th December and then married Christopher Lattimer the following day. She died on 31st December with an estate valued at £10M.
Mr Lattimer claimed that the marriage invalidated the Will and that he was entitled to the entirety of her estate (he was only entitled to ⅙ of the estate under the Will).
The deceased’s sister defended the claim.
Master Clark said that the factual matters were “sufficient for her to have a real prospect of success, showing that her sister intended for the Will to survive her forthcoming marriage to Mr Lattimer”.
THE MATTER NOW PROCEEDS TO A FULL TRIAL - watch this space …
Sangha v Sangha 2023
Harvard Singh Sangha died on 3rd September 2016. He had made a Will in 2007 dealing with both his Indian and English assets.
He made a new Will in 2016 which dealt with/disposed only of his Indian assets but contained the following revocation clause: “This is my last Will and all such previous documents stand cancelled”.
The Court of Appeal was asked to determine whether this was effective to revoke the 2007 Will in its entirety or only revoke that Will to the extent of his Indian assets as been held on Appeal.
The Court of Appeal decided that the 2016 Will revoked the 2007 Will in its entirety.