Three Sisters Win Inheritance Dispute against Mother’s Estate

Miss B and her two sisters were the daughters of Mrs P who died in June 2009.

Mrs P’s Will, executed in February 2009, left small pecuniary (money) gifts to her two executors and the remainder of her estate to charity. The Will was accompanied with a Statement under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, often known simply as the 1975 Act, setting out Mrs P’s reasons for excluding Miss B and her sisters.

Miss B and her sisters had very real concerns about the circumstances in which Mrs P executed her Will as it was during a period when she was very unwell and refusing to eat. They consulted us to challenge the Will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. They also wanted to make an inheritance claim under the 1975 Act.

Medical evidence was obtained which supported the fact that Mrs P had not been eating, suffered from anxiety and depression and had a tendency of blocking out her family members at such times.

There was also evidence that the Inheritance Act statements accompanying the Will were false and were unreasonably relied upon in excluding Miss B and her sisters who had spent considerable time caring for their mother and trying to ensure she stayed well.

It was not necessary to commence court proceedings as a settlement was reached in negotiated correspondence whereby Miss B and her sisters received a global settlement of £25,000 inclusive of their legal costs, representing 25% of the net value of the estate.

This is an example of the importance of seeking to negotiate a settlement of an inheritance dispute before commencing court proceedings, particularly where an estate has a modest value. It is also a further illustration of the growing number of successful Inheritance Act claims following the case of Illott v Mitson by adult children against their parents’ estates where those children have been specifically excluded from the estate.