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Snubbed Son is Awarded Share of Family Fortune After Will Dispute

View profile for Richard Howells
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Disputes over inheritance are, sadly, very common, and they can cause lasting damage to family ties.

While a carefully-written Will can ensure an estate is distributed according to the wishes of the deceased, Wills can be successfully contested, under some circumstances. There is currently a lot of media interest in the eye-catching case of a man who has just won a slice of a £2.4 million family fortune after he was cut out of his father’s Will because he was ‘an unwanted war baby’.

Colin Johnston sued his niece, Lady Natalie Wicket after she was left the entire family fortune when Lord Sidney, died, aged 95.

Mr Johnston, who had been living in a precarious financial position, in rented housing, and working as a part-time bus driver, told the Court he had worked loyally for his father for three decades, but that his younger brother had always been favoured by his parents. A rift with Lord Sidney in 1991 compounded the problem, said Mr Johnson, and the estate was left to his niece – the daughter of the favoured brother. Lord Sidney had, over the years, built a successful car and property business in London, bought titles for himself and family members, but left his eldest son out. However, Mr Johnston believed he would inherit something after the death of his mother Elsie and, later, of his father.

A high court Judge has now awarded Mr Johnston £125,000 from the estate, agreeing that there was something fundamentally amiss in the relationship between Mr Johnston and his parents, and, that Lord Sidney had misled his son over the inheritance. The judge agreed that Lord Sidney had decided in the 1970s that Colin would inherit nothing, despite the fact that they were working side by side in the family firm at the time. So, Mr Johnston has been awarded a share of the estate as a reasonable provision.

This case illustrates the importance of tying up loose ends carefully, and after taking tailored legal advice, when it comes to making a Will. Making a detailed Will, drawn up willingly, and without outside influences, can help to pre-empt or prevent any claims that may be made against an estate. It is also advisable to prepare a statement outlining the reasons why the Will has been prepared in a particular way. This can be used as evidence if a claim is made against the estate, pushing back against your intentions. 

It is important to revise your Will regularly when major life-changes occur and to be clear about your intentions to loved ones while you are alive, so they are not misled. If a Will leaves dependents, or people close to the deceased, without sufficient money to get by, a claim for reasonable financial provision can be made.

JCP’s Lifetime Planning team is always on hand for tailored and professional legal support. Richard is Director and Head of the Lifetime Planning Disputes team who specialise in Litigation involving Wills, Estates, Trusts and Property. Contact Richard on or call 01267 248981.

For further advice, please contact our specialist Lifetime Planning Solicitors in:

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