Can your Will be challenged by disgruntled family members when you die?
The recent case of Nahajec v Fowle confirms yet again the answer is certainly yes.
Briefly, Stanley Nahajec died on 19 July 2015 having made a Will on 7 July 2015. In his Will, he gifted his entire estate to his close friend Stephen Fowle and appointed him as executor.
Mr Nahajec did not include any provision for his three children in his Will. Mr Nahajec also prepared a letter to store with his Will, that explained in his own words what his reasoning was:
"In my said will I have made no provision for either of my sons or daughter. I have not seen or heard from any of my children in the last 18 years and I do not believe they have any interest in me or my welfare. All of my children are of independent means and have or have had their own life and family and are, to my knowledge, sufficiently independent of means not to require any provision from me. In the circumstances I do not feel it appropriate for (sic) necessary to make any provision for them in my will and trust that in this regard you as my executor will respect my wishes and ensure that they receive no benefit whatsoever thereunder.”
Mr Nahajec’s daughter argued that that her father’s Will failed to make reasonable financial provision for her, in particular because she wanted to train to be a veterinary nurse, which she would not be able to do if she did not inherit from her father’s estate.
With what might come as a surprise to many, the Judge agreed with Elena (despite accepting that Mr Nahajec had effectively had little or no contact with his daughter for 18 years) and awarded Elena £30,000.
Mr Fowle had already spent the inheritance he received by the time the Judge made his decision, and therefore we understand Mr Fowle will apparently have to take out a bank loan to be able to pay Elena the amount the Judge has awarded her.
This case raises two points to keep in mind:
- Where you think you may have family members who would be unhappy as to the provisions of your Will, particular care needs to be taken to try and ensure as best you can the terms of your Will are accepted by the Courts if a claim is subsequently made when you die; and
- If you are acting as an executor, it is vitally important that you take steps to protect yourself from personal liability when distributing a deceased’s estate.
Please speak to a member of our Wealth Management team if you wish to discuss either of these points further.