Our client,, came to see us shortly after her mother passed away regarding her mother’s Will.
Her mother had made a Will leaving disproportionate shares in her Estate to her four children. Our client and her brother were each to receive a 47% share of the residue, with the other two sisters sharing a 3% share of the residue. The other 3% was to be left to the testatrix’s grandchildren.
Her mother had written a letter to one of our client’s sisters explaining the basis for her decision to bequeath a lesser amount to her. The reason she gave was that she felt safe in the knowledge that this particular daughter was and would continue to be comfortably off. Evidently, it seems that her mother wished to bring about an equal balance of wealth between her four children. Unfortunately, it does not appear that her other sister received a similar letter explaining why she was being left a smaller share.
The sisters who were left a smaller share in the Estate intended to challenge the terms of their mother’s Will on the basis that equal provision should have been made for all four children. They notified our client of their intention to commence proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Our client, also being one of the executors of the Will, sought to defend the action.
The sisters put forward a without prejudice proposal requesting that they each be paid £30,000 from the shares which our client and her brother were due to inherit. We were of the view that the sisters had not satisfied the criteria set out in sections 1 and 3 of the Act in that they were not in need of any financial provision and neither had been maintained by the Testatrix. We therefore advised our client reject their offer.
We are currently waiting to hear from the sisters’ solicitors with a detailed letter before claim. The issue to determine is whether the sisters are able to maintain a claim within the provisions of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Whilst we have initially argued that they would fail we are anxious of recent case law such as Ilot v Mitson & Others  EWCA Civ 346 and have advised our client that should we receive a detailed letter of claim we should consider mediation.