Making a Will? Don’t Forget Your Moral Responsibilities to Your Family!

When making your will, the law expects that you will not forget your responsibilities to those who have a legitimate call on your bounty. The point was made by one case in which a father left his entire £265,000 estate to a friend, cutting out his three children.

The man had severed links with his family following the end of his second marriage and had for many years had little or no contact with his children. His daughter’s efforts in adulthood to rekindle her relationship with him had borne fruit for about three years before they fell out and all communication between them lapsed.

After his death, she launched proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 on the basis that he had been obliged to make reasonable provision for her in his will. Working for a retailer under a zero hours contract, she was in straitened financial circumstances and her lack of funds was standing in the way of her ambition to qualify as a veterinary nurse.

Her application was, however, resisted by the sole beneficiary of the will, a close friend of her father who had visited him regularly during his final months when he was dying from cancer. He claimed that the man had had no relationship with his daughter and pointed to a side letter attached to the will in which the man claimed not to have seen or heard from his children in 18 years. The friend claimed to have spent his entire inheritance on settling his debts and other expenses and that he faced his own financial difficulties.

In upholding the daughter’s claim, however, a judge found that it was a not a case of a prodigal child who only reappeared when there was the possibility of some money to be had. It was clear that she very much regretted the absence of a relationship with her father and that she had a moral claim on his bounty. She was awarded £30,000 from his estate. The friend had earlier agreed to pay £22,000 from his inheritance to one of the man’s sons who was unable to work due to health problems. His other son had made no claim on the estate.