Excluding Children from your estate

Leaving Children out of your estate

Normally in a Will, the Testator wants to leave everything to his or her partner and then to the children in equal shares. Sadly, this is not always possible – a parent may have fallen out with his children, or he may feel that the particular child has already received his fair share.

There are any number of reasons – a judge once referred to the “multiplicity of human relationships” – and he wasn’t wrong. He meant that really there is no “normal” family – we are all unique. Various celebrities like Sting, Elton John, and Gordon Ramsey have all recently declared that they are not leaving their wealth to their children.

There has also been a lot of publicity about a recent case – Ilott v Mitson – where a mother left her entire estate to charities rather than to her only daughter. The daughter challenged the case up to the Supreme Court – and lost.
It is always open to a disappointed person who had expected to benefit from a Will to challenge it, and disputed Wills are on the increase, but in practice it isn’t easy.

Firstly – there is the question of costs. The only time one of my Wills was challenged, it ended up in the High Court – (the Will was upheld). But the eye opening feature was the costs. They amounted to over £40,000 in a case where the estate was worth £100,000 – it wasn’t worth it. The only people who really benefited were the lawyers.

Secondly, if a child wants to challenge a Will, then there are a number of challenges – an infant child ie. one under 18 can expect his education and maintenance to be looked after including, possibly, university education.
However, it is much more difficult for an adult child with good health and in employment.

My advice to a client would be that if he wants to exclude an adult child then he can do so. I can’t totally exclude the possibility of a challenge and to deal with that I would advise him to write a letter to be left with the Will, explaining his reasons. It isn’t legally binding, but provided those reasons are cogent (to use a legal term) then the court will probably upheld the Will.

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