If family members are unhappy with your will, can they challenge it?
Yet again a recent case confirms that disgruntled family members can challenge your will if they are unhappy with its contents.
Mr Nahajec died on 19 July 2015 after making a will a few weeks earlier. He left his entire estate to his close friend, Mr Stephen Fowle, and appointed him as the executor of the estate.
Mr Nahejec had three children and he did not make any provision for them in his will. He left a letter with his will explaining that his children had not been in contact with him at all for 18 years and he believed they had no interest in him or his left. Mr Nahejec said in his letter that he through his children were sufficiently independent and did not require any provision from him under the terms of his will.
Mr Nahejec’s daughter, Elena, applied to the Court arguing that her late father’s will failed to provide reasonable financial provision. She said that unless provision was made for her she would not be able to train to become a veterinary nurse. The Court agreed and made an order that she should receive £30,000 from the estate.
By the time the case was decided by the court in June 2017, Mr Fowle had spent the entire inheritance and had to secure finance to pay the amount due to Elena.
There are lessons to be learnt here. Firstly, it appears that court may be taking a more flexible approach to claims being brought by estranged children. In addition, when faced with a claim, executors should take steps to protect themselves from personal liability when distributing the estate.
Particular care should be taken when drafting your will to ensure that the court will accept the terms if challenged later. This includes where members of the family may be left out of the will who would otherwise expect to inherit.