Ex-Husband’s Win Over Mother-in-Law’s Will Opens New Route for Battle

31 Aug 2016

It has been fairly well publicised that there has been a sizable increase in the number of Wills being challenged in court in recent years, and here in London this is no different. As experts in Wills and estates in London and the south east, we at Pindoria Solicitors believe this rising trend, some 20 per cent or so in the past decade, will no doubt be furthered following a recent legal victory.

It has always been the case that if you are going to challenge the validity of a Will, you have to show that you have an ‘interest’ in the estate and this has been thought of as being only those who have a direct link with the deceased, such as a family member or someone who benefits from the estate under a rival Will, for example.

Yet now, it appears the definition of ‘interest’ is much wider after the Court of Appeal said that the law should not be seen so narrowly when deciding if someone has an ‘interest’ in an estate for the purposes of challenging a Will.

The case surrounds Colin Randall who insisted that, under the terms of his divorce, he was entitled to about £75,000 of his ex-mother in law’s Sylvia Corrall’s £250,000 legacy. She had died in 2013, but Colin and his ex-wife, Hilary (Sylvia’s only child) had separated many years ago and divorced in 2006.

The divorce settlement, which the couple reached a decade ago, said that if Hilary benefited from her mothers’ estate, she could keep the first £100,000 for herself but then had to share any amount on top of that equally with her former spouse. When Sylvia died, it transpired that her Will provided for Hilary’s inheritance to be limited to the £100,000, with the balance of the estate going to her grandchildren.

However, Colin went to court arguing that he should be allowed to challenge the validity of the Will, which, if overturned, would see the £150,000 balance going to Hilary, and as such, due to the divorce agreement, £75,000 to him. In the courtroom battle in May the court thought that the interests of a creditor of a beneficiary are ‘fundamentally different’ to the interests of a creditor of the estate itself, and with Mr Randall’s interest being to ensure that the estate is administered properly he won.

Taking this into account, and also perhaps the courts’ discomfort with how easily Hilary could have avoided the terms of the divorce settlement,  the court was prepared to adopt the broader interpretation of ‘interest’ in this particular case.

As a result this now means that creditors seeking to recover money now have a new avenue to pursue. Whether it opens up the floodgates to similar appeals, as Mrs Randall has claimed, following the decision is very much unknown. However, what is without doubt is the word interest now has a much broader context in such situations.

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