Case study: estate claim successful in the High Court
We recently acted in a contentious probate case, representing a widow and her child who were contesting the terms of a disputed Will. Last week, our clients were awarded nearly £100,000 plus costs in court, effectively the value of the entire estate.
It’s rare for a Will dispute case like this to go to trial and even rarer still to get such a comprehensive win on behalf of a client. This is what happened:
The clients’ story
The clients were a widow in her 30s and her young son, the two surviving dependants of a man in his 70s. The widow had lived with her husband for over a decade, during which they had been married for more than eight years. Her son, born during the relationship, wasn’t the deceased’s child but lived with the couple for much of his early life.
The relationship wasn’t always harmonious and, shortly before her husband’s death, our client and her son moved out of the marital home. They returned two years later, before moving out again months before he died. Her husband then made enquiries about a divorce, but never issued proceedings. He did, however, write a new Will.
When our client’s husband died and his Will was read, it was clear that he had made no provision at all for her or her son. The estate passed to distant relations and neighbours.
Our client felt this was extremely unfair on both her and her son. Whilst her marriage to her husband had not been without difficulties, they had been dependent on each other in several ways, with her taking an active role in his considerable care needs as his health deteriorated.
Claiming under the Inheritance Act
She came to us for help and we advised that she and her son were eligible to make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975. We issued claims on behalf of both of them against the executors and beneficiaries of the Will. The defendants challenged both of our clients’ right to bring a claim against the estate, as well as their right to reasonable provision from it.
Whilst we attempted to resolve the dispute through out-of-court settlement proposals and mediation, the Will beneficiaries remained adamant that they would not allow our clients to receive money from the estate.
As a result, the case went to trial at the High Court in Bristol. During the hearing, the defendants made allegations about the widow’s conduct during the marriage and following death. We countered that the alleged conduct was both irrelevant and inaccurate. We also argued that her son, represented by his grandmother due to his age, should be considered a child of the marriage, even though the deceased was not his father.
On both points, the judge agreed with our argument, as well as our case that both of our clients were entitled to reasonable financial provision from the estate. The widow’s claim required no evidence of maintenance needs and was, in part, valued by suggesting what she might have received had she and her husband divorced.
Our clients won two-thirds of the whole estate plus their legal costs, when previously under the Will they would have received nothing. Overall, this was an excellent outcome that will help our client to secure a future for herself and her son as he grows up.
Our solicitors have considerable experience in contentious probate and disputes over estates. To speak to an expert Will disputes solicitor in Bristol, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.