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Making a Will? You Mustn't Forget Your Family and Financial Dependants

When making your will, you may, for one reason or another, choose to distribute your estate unevenly between your loved ones. However, as a High Court ruling showed, you are under an overriding duty to make reasonable provision for members of your family and anyone else who depends upon you financially.

By his will, a man bequeathed £10,000 to each of his three adult children. He left the remainder of his estate, which was worth about £475,000 in total, to his daughter. His two sons subsequently launched proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that the will did not provide for their reasonable needs. They valued their claims against the estate, in total, at more than £250,000.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the man had evidently decided to leave the lion's share of his estate to his daughter because he regarded his sons as not having behaved well. He was only deterred from cutting his sons out of his will altogether by a solicitor's sensible advice.

Rejecting the younger son's claim, the Court noted that he owned his family home and two other properties, with combined equity in the region of £240,000, together with his own profitable business. His income was relatively modest but was sufficient to meet his reasonable needs both now and in the foreseeable future. The gift of £10,000 was sufficient to make reasonable provision for him.

The older son was in a very different position in that he was chronically disabled and dependent on others' help for many day-to-day tasks. In receipt of benefits, he lived with a friend in her housing association property. From the fact that he had sufficient spare cash to spend on gambling, the Court inferred that he had more than enough money to meet his current, modest needs. On the other hand, his condition was likely to deteriorate in the future, resulting in an increasing need for care.

In awarding the older son an additional £25,000 from the estate, the Court found that it was unreasonable for his particular needs relating to his disabilities not to have been recognised in the will. The money would be placed in trust to cover his care costs. Any sum remaining in the trust fund on his death would revert to his sister.