Inheritance disputes can be extremely sensitive when close family or friends feel they have been duped out of what they believe they were entitled to. One farmer’s son has taken his parents to court after finding out they did not plan on giving him a penny from the family’s farm in their Wills.
Clive Shaw, a 55 year old man from Lincolnshire, brought a proprietary estoppel claim against his parents having discovered that he had been written out of his parent’s Wills. Clive’s parents had promised him he would inherit the £1 million family farm. Mr Shaw claimed in Court that he had devoted his life to working on the farm to the detriment of his own career prospects.
Mr Shaw’s parents had cut him out of their Wills and instead bequeathed their estate in it’s entirety to their daughter, Mr Shaw’s sister. In defending their decision, Mr Shaw’s parents claimed their son, ‘hadn’t worked hard enough on the farm, couldn’t be trusted to get up on time for work’ and ‘hated cows because they made him nervous’.
Mr Shaw pursued his case through the High Court; however, the decision went against him leaving Mr Shaw and his partner only 6 weeks to leave their home on the farm.
Judge Linwood in his judgment stated,
‘Clive was promised the farm would be his inheritance from about 1978 onwards, but those assurances were conditional upon Clive working properly on the farm in the manner of a dedicated long-term farmer. However, Clive was not sufficiently interested and his lifestyle choices were such that he did not want to take on the farm and dedicate himself to it; as his interests were elsewhere in driving and engineering. Sadly for Walt, Clive I find was never going to be the farmer Walt thought and hoped he would be and take over the running of the farm.’
Specialist Wills & Probate solicitor, Caroline Roche’s view
This case is a classic example of how things can go sour when the expectations of a testator’s beneficiaries are not reflected in the provisions of the Will. I often come across clients who, for varying reasons, wish to disinherit one or more of their children. Most clients, however, are wary of doing so because they do not want their Executors to have to deal with claims against their estate when they have passed away. Quite apart from the costs involved in defending a Will, there are time considerations to take into account too. Even if a Will is ultimately upheld as valid and the person seeking to challenge the Will loses, there may be a considerable time lapse for the beneficiaries awaiting their inheritance. This can be particularly problematic when the beneficiaries are elderly or infirm.
Similarly, for those seeking to contest a Will, it is essential to seek expert legal advice. Contesting a Will can be a complicated, drawn out process and there are only certain grounds upon which a Will can be contested. Additionally, there are also time limitations, so failure to contest a Will within the prescribed time could result in any claim being statute barred under the law.
At Duncan Lewis Solicitors, we can offer expert legal advice on how to both contest and defend a Will. We understand that contesting a Will can cause serious rifts in families and extended families and work efficiently and swiftly to deal with your case. Duncan Lewis has departments offering probate, litigation and family law – and also specialises in family mediation, where claims brought cause difficulties amongst the familial parties involved. Our specialist wills and probate solicitors can offer clear advice on all the different aspects of contesting a Will – and will pursue any litigation in a probate matter robustly. Ultimately, it is essential and best practice to have your Will drafted by a specialist wills and probate solicitor to ensure your Will legally reflects your wishes.
Author, Caroline Roche is a solicitor and Director in the wills and probate department. Her specialist experience includes, drafting wills; advising on inheritance tax due from an estate; gathering the estate when a loved-one has passed; dealing with both taxable and non-taxable estates, handling the affairs when a loved-one has died without a will.
To speak to Caroline, please call 020 3114 1104 or email her at email@example.com.
Duncan Lewis Wills & Probate Solicitors
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 of England and Wales, there is a time limit for contesting a Will, so it is vital to contact Duncan Lewis probate solicitors as soon as possible after probate is granted.
After Grant of Probate, property and monies will be distributed to beneficiaries and this may make contesting a Will extremely complex.
Duncan Lewis probate solicitors offers competitively-priced fees for contentious Wills and probate matters, based on hourly rates.
For expert legal advice on Contesting a Will, call Duncan Lewis Probate Solicitors on 0333 772 0409.