What can you do when you can't find a Will?

Case study of a successful Inheritance Act claim that was made when a Will could not be found.

Mr S died in March 2011 leaving a Will dated July 1999. Under the terms of his Will he appointed his second wife as his executor and sole beneficiary of his estate, which was valued for probate in 2011 at £450,000.

His daughter wanted to challenge the will and appointed us to represent her in the inheritance dispute.

It was the daughter’s case that the 1999 Will was not the deceased’s last Will. He told her on several occasions that he had executed a later Will in 2010 which made provision for her.

Unfortunately, the daughter could not find her father's later Will, despite extensive searches. In the absence of locating a later Will the courts would insist that his estate be administered in accordance with his 1999 Will.

We therefore advised the daughter to bring a claim under section 1(1)(c) of the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975, often known as the 1975 Act for short.

The daughter relied upon the following subsections of section 3 of the 1975 Act:-

  • 3(1)(a)- her financial need for provision as compared to;
  • 3(1)(c)- The wife’s lesser need for provision;
  • 3(1)(e)- the estate was of a sufficient size to make provision for her
  • 3(1)(f)- her disabilities necessitated that sufficient provision should be made for her; and
  • 3(1)(d) and (g)- her father's conduct in promising her provision from his estate created an obligation and responsibility upon him to make financial provision for her.

Court proceedings were commenced but the inheritance claim was settled out of court by negotiation.

Our client received a £25,000 global sum.

This is a good example of a classic scenario where a parent promises a child provision from their estate, but on their death it becomes clear that their Will is either out of date or at complete odds with the assurances.

Whilst our client's father have felt he was doing the right thing by making such promises and not causing a family dispute during his lifetime, it highlights how important it is for anyone making a Will to ensure that all parties are aware of their true intentions to avoid a legal dispute arising.

On this occasion a settlement was agreed before the case came to court, but where a claim goes to trial there is always the danger that the legal costs will consume a large part or even the entire estate.

The case also highlights the importance of making sure that your will is kept in a safe and accessible place and that someone you trust knows where to find it.

At Slee Blackwell our Wills and Probate administration team offer to store Wills completely free of charge.

If you can't find a Will and wish to contest an estate or would like guidance on making an Inheritance Act claim then caontact us by phone or email for a free assessment.