Unhappy families – Challenging Inheritance Issues

The outcome of a recent High Court case is a warning for anyone challenging a will.

The outcome of a recent High Court case is a warning for anyone challenging a will.

As inheritances become more valuable, the number of disputes about wills have increased. Court cases rose by almost 50% to 188 in 2019 compared to the previous year according to the latest Ministry of Justice figures.  Many more are settled or abandoned along the way. The cases which do reach the High Court tend to be those involving the ‘right’ mix of large sums and elevated emotions. An example that appeared in April 2021 is Miles v Shearer

Tony Shearer died in October 2017, leaving nearly all of an estate worth about £2.2m to his second wife, Pamela. His two daughters, Juliet and Lauretta, born in the early 1980s to his first wife, received nothing. This prompted them to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.  

Lauretta wanted a payment from her father’s estate to cover:

Juliet sought funds to:

In 2008, shortly after his divorce, Tony gave £177,000 to Juliet and £185,000 to Lauretta. At the time he made clear there would be no further financial support to his daughters. This was an important factor in the case as it reinforced the decisions Tony made in the creation of his will.

The judge rejected the claims of both daughters, stating that neither had established a need for maintenance to be funded from their father’s estate.  

Two lessons can be drawn from the case:

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning and will advice.