Challenging a Will

It used to be very hard to challenge a will and we look at a couple of recent cases which indicate how the courts are dealing with these matters at the moment.

Can I challenge a Will?

In 2017 the Supreme Court case of Ilott v Blue Cross gave many adult offspring the idea that they can succeed in a 1975 Act claim based on their financial circumstances. It is not correct that the Ilott case has given rise to a 'rule' that 1975 Act claimants can now expect a share of the estate, either by judgment or by pressurising the defendant into settling.

Recent Case law – The Shapton Case

The recent case of Shapton v Seviour shows that adult offspring are increasingly bringing unmerited claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 in the hope that the other party who inherited under a Will will settle out of court.

In the case, Mr Seviour's Will had left his entire estate to his terminally ill widow. Despite the estate's modest value of £268,000, Mr Seviour's adult daughter Carly Shapton argued she was entitled to a quarter of the estate.

Mrs Shapton and her husband were financially independent with a house of their own and reasonable incomes, but she had £20,000 of credit card debt. She claimed that this was evidence of her financial need although another possible motivation was her poor relationship with her step-mother Mrs Seviour. 

The High Court dismissed Mrs Shapton's case as 'absolutely hopeless' and awarded costs of £50,000 against her.

What the [Shapton] decision illustrates is that very many of these cases should not be settled. Beneficiaries in a Will should not be pressurised into settling unmeritorious claims. 

How Can We Help?

This is a complicated area of law and if you would like some guidance then please do not hesitate us at av@bennettoakley.co.uk or 01444 460353.

Anthony Vingoe, Head of Family Law

June 2020