Inheritance disputes: Charity challenges

Posted on: September 27th, 2017

A recent Sunday Mail article considered tensions that can arise between families and charities when dealing with inheritances. Charities are rightly often left bequests, but where the deceased has not provided for family or dependants or there is a problem with a Will that gives rise to similar position, disputes may follow.

According to the report, the deceased in this instance decided to change her Will to leave her estate to her un-married partner, provided that he cared for her three dogs. In the previous Will, eight years before, the estate was left in full to the charities.

According to the press report, the dispute appears to relate to the validity of the later Will and the charities stood to receive the entire estate. The dispute on the face of it is a “winner takes all” case, which the deceased would no doubt have been saddened to see, when the welfare of her animals was at the heart of her intentions.

Charities are largely mindful of the delicate position the parties and will often engage in negotiation, which appears to be on-going in that particular case. That does mean the partner still may not receive the full inheritance he expected because of the technical challenge by the charities.

This type of case should be distinguished with those under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975,  which are about the share of the inheritance, rather than the validity of the Will. The recent case of Illot in relation to that Act, rightly highlighted however that charities depend heavily on testamentary bequests for their work and did not have to justify need in inheritance claims.

Is that balance now too far in favour of the charities?

There is no doubt giving to charity should be encouraged, but these cases demonstrate the benefit of Wills being professionally prepared and regularly reviewed, particularly where the value of estates is swelled by house values.

Chris Gambs, a Solicitor in the Will and Inheritance Dispute team, can be contacted on 023 9236 4951 or email chrisgambs@coffinmew.co.uk.