By and large, you can do what you want with your possessions. You can sell, gift or donate all your worldly possessions to whoever you want, both during your lifetime and, in accordance with your testamentary freedom, through your Will when you die. The way in which you do this may not be to the liking of everybody. Still, while you are alive you can support your choices and generally cannot be forced to provide for those you do not want to. However, all is not so straightforward after you have died. Your Will may be challenged by those who, rightly or wrongly, believe they have a right to a share of your estate.
One of the reasons your family may challenge your Will is because they believe you lacked the required mental capacity (you did not know what you were doing) when you made it (See my previous blog – Challenge Proof Wills). Another common reason for them to challenge your Will is because you have not made any provision for them when you should have or the provision you have made is inadequate. If someone is directly or indirectly dependent on you financially, you can be regarded as having a moral and legal obligation to make provisions for them. This is most often your spouse or civil partner (including, in certain circumstances, former spouse and former civil partner) and children, but often includes those who are not related to you as well. If they feel that you were unreasonable in the way you distributed your assets, they can seek the help of the Court to have your Will altered to make better provisions for them.
Where the court does make a financial award, this is often limited to providing for the maintenance of the person making the claim. Usually, if the person bringing the claim is financially secure the court is unlikely to make additional provisions for them by altering your Will. However, the court will consider various other factors in coming to its decision, including the size of your estate. Consequently, the outcome of any legal challenge is uncertain as it is at the discretion of the court whether your Will is altered or not. Though the right to leave your estate to whomever you want remains your fundamental right, there is no guarantee that it will be respected after your death. To ensure that your wishes are carried out it is always good to take legal advice when making your Will. In doing so, you can reduce the likelihood of others claiming against your estate.
If you want expert advice and assistance on how to distribute your possessions in your Will and reduce the risks of a costly legal challenge, please contact me, Sangeeta Moore, at The Law House Solicitors on 020 3432 1084 or 07825 838 922. Alternatively, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org