Widower Wins Inheritance Dispute against Step Daughter

Mr P had been married to Mrs P since 1975. Mrs P had one daughter from a previous relationship, Mrs V, who was therefore Mr P’s step-daughter.

In September 2008 Mr and Mrs P executed mirror wills that provided for their estates to pass to each other in the event of their death.

However, following a diagnosis of cancer, a new Will was executed by Mrs P in January 2011 - with the assistance of Mrs V - gifting her entire estate to Mrs V.

Mrs P’s estate was small (only in the region of £20,000) but Mr P was concerned at the circumstances surrounding the execution of her 2011 Will. He initially challenged the validity of the Will (on the grounds of lack of capacity and undue influence) and also made a claim under section 1(1)(a) of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. He received Legal Aid (public funding) to pursue these claims, but in the end only proceeded with the 1975 Act claim, largely due to the small size of the estate.

It was not necessary to issue court proceedings. Following the service of the Letter of Claim an offer of settlement was made and it was possible for the parties to negotiate terms of settlement to avoid the estate being unnecessarily dissipated in costs.

Mr P received £15,000, inclusive of his legal costs.

This disputed Will case exemplifies of the strength of the position of a spouse who does not receive any provision from an estate. The 1975 Act protects spouses in such circumstances and the strength of Mr P’s position was a significant factor in him being able to reach early terms of settlement without incurring substantial legal costs in commencing court proceedings.