Are assets always distributed according to a valid Will?

When you create a Will, you do so on the understanding that your estate will be administered according to your wishes, so long as the Will is valid under the law.

This means that you are free to leave your assets to the people or organisations of your choosing, whether that be family, friends or a charity.

However, there are certain circumstances in which those not detailed in your Will may seek to make a claim against your estate. You’ll need to understand these and seek advice on drafting your Will in order to avoid disputes after your death.

Claims by dependents

The primary situation where claims may be made against your estate in addition to those detailed in your Will is when dependents claim under the Inheritance (Provisions for Family & Dependents) Act 1975.

The Act allows certain categories of people which have a relationship with you to make a claim where they feel that your Will fails to make sufficient provisions for them.

Claims may be made by:

The Courts will decide what classes as ‘sufficient and reasonable’ provisions, taking into account circumstances such as the size of your estate, the needs of the claiming party and any existing obligations you hold towards them.

Claims under promises made and broken

If you have promised financial support to someone after your death, but your Will does not reflect this, then the person may be able to make a claim against your estate under promissory estoppel.

This is the concept within the law that states one party may be liable for financial harm as a result of broken promises.

The Courts may intervene in such a case, provided that the individual is able to prove that you made the promise, that it was not met, and that they have suffered financial harm as a result of relying on that promise.

Securing your Will

Want to make sure your assets are distributed according to your Will? The best way to achieve this is to anticipate whether your Will might trigger any claims in either of the above scenarios.

If you have someone who relies on you financially or family members which are classed as dependents, you should first consider how you can provide sufficient support for them in your Will – or the reasoning behind not wanting to do so.

It is your right to distribute your assets according to your own wishes, but it is also a good idea to identify why you have not made provisions for certain dependents in case a dispute arises.

This is also a discussion that you can have with your dependents while drafting your Will, if this is appropriate to your situation.

Whatever your circumstances and family dynamic, we can advise you on drafting a Will that works for you and your dependents. Contact our Wills and Probate team to discuss how we can help.

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