Hugh James’ contested wills, trusts and estates team has recently recovered a significant inheritance for a widow following a trial at Manchester County Court.
The County Court has ruled in favour of Mrs Williams, aged 43, represented by Hugh James, who successfully challenged the distribution of her late husband’s estate, after she was written out of his will.
Mr Williams was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in 2016. At that time he had been in a relationship with Mrs Williams for nine years and happily married for five. As his illness took its toll, Mr Williams began to exhibit behavioural and emotional changes which, in turn, placed a strain on the marriage.
Following a disagreement between the couple in June 2017, Mr Williams terminated Mrs Williams’ employment at his company and executed a will leaving his entire estate to his two adult children from a previous relationship. Due to ill health Mrs Williams was unable to obtain alternative employment and became financially reliant on her husband.
Although the couple reconciled a few days later, Mr Williams did not revisit his will. As a result, when he passed away in September 2017 the whole of his estate, valued at £260,000, passed to his children. This included the marital home where the couple had lived for almost six years. As a result, Mrs Williams was left facing the prospect of homelessness.
Mrs Williams pursued an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 claim against her late husband. The claim was robustly defended by Mr Williams’ children who refused to accept, until the eleventh hour, that the will failed to make reasonable financial provision for Mrs Williams, despite making no provision for her at all. The defendants also attempted to obtain possession of the marital home from Mrs Williams by issuing possession proceedings against her.
The case proceeded to a two day trial at Manchester County Court. The Court granted Mrs Williams reasonable provision by way of an award of £175,000. In making its finding, the court recognised that Mr Williams owed a moral obligation to Mrs Williams to provide for her which, at the very least, included a roof over her head and means to enable her to obtain future employment.
The case illustrates the financial obligations which are assumed between married couples and the need to review your will on a regular basis.