January 23, 2019

Dispute After Death: The Dangers of Not Updating Your Will

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Dispute After Death: The Dangers of Not Updating Your Will

The need to regularly review ones Will is paramount. Circumstances change and life takes many unexpected twists and turns. How one expects their estate to be divided is likely to differ as the years pass by, especially if you meet new people later in life who you may feel are more deserving of inheritance.

This was the case for Mr Redmond, who met his live-in partner years after having his Will was drawn up, which left everything he owned to his two daughters, Lynn Leberknight and Jane Redmond. When Mr Redmond passed away, Mrs Taylor was ordered to leave the home she had once shared with Mr Redmond by his daughter Mrs Leberknight. As Mr Redmond had not made any provisions for his life partner in his Will, she was legally left with nothing.

Whilst Mrs Taylor had little rights under the strict letter of the law, Courts are able to apply the principles of “equity” to reach a more fair and just outcome. A notable example is the maxim ‘equity looks to the intention rather than the form’ meaning that equity will not allow a party to rely on the strict wording of the law in a way that would be unconscionable.

The principles of equity therefore prove crucial in a case such as Mr Redmond’s. Mrs Taylor made a claim under the rules of equity against Mr Redmond’s estate. This claim was successful, with judge Stephen Hockman QC finding it ‘improbable that in his deteriorating state of health, Mr Redmond would choose to end a relationship with a woman whom he clearly loved’. The judge followed this by confirming ‘equity regards as done that which ought to be done’. This was found despite claims from the daughters that Mr Redmond and Mrs Taylor’s relationship was an ‘affair’ and that he was ‘not the marrying type’.

While Mrs Taylor’s claim was successful and she was subsequently awarded £325,000.00 out of Mr Redmond’s £1,000,000.00 estate, thousands of pounds in Court and solicitor fees were incurred as well as relationships breaking down. The gruelling nature of this estate battle could have been avoided had he simply updated his Will to provide for his partner.  

Do you think your Will might not reflect your current wishes? Call us today to discuss your position.

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