We have drafted many Wills for people with varying circumstances, wishes and family dynamics. In this day and age it is not unusual for clients to have been married two, three or even four times! Our experience has shown us that with the change in family dynamics, attitudes and family relationships have also changed. A result of this is that some of our clients leave family members out of their Wills for varying reasons. This obviously leaves those family members “disappointed” and as a result we always advise our clients that such family members may be to bring a claim against their estate after death as a “disappointed beneficiary”.
Such a claim has recently been highlighted by the Court of Appeal case Ilott v. Mitson (2015) in which no provision was made for an estranged daughter who was deliberately left out of her mother's Will. In spite of this, the daughter was awarded £164,000 by the court after bringing a claim as a disappointed beneficiary. This case reminds us of the power the courts have.
Although every individual case turns on its own facts, and no two decisions will ever be the same, the Ilott case has caused a stir in the world of will-drafting, leaving many of us professionals asking what can be done to ensure their clients' wishes are carried out?
The Ilott case reminds us that people should ensure their Wills are up to date and seek professional independent advice in connection with them. Why is this? Well by approaching a regulated professional to create your Will you will be providing information to a trusted, (and insured”!) individual who can give evidence in court about what you wanted to happen after you pass away if necessary.
In this age of technology it might also be a good idea for clients to create their “story” on a mobile phone video that can be retrieved after their death if necessary. This will provide any excellent way for the client to effectively give evidence after their death about why a beneficiary has been left out of their Will! Something to seriously consider we think.