Worried about a challenge to your Will? A letter of wishes may help

Sometimes, choosing who to include in a Will and who to leave out can be a difficult decision. You might have a large circle of family and friends and your estate might not be big enough to go around. You might wish to benefit struggling family members above those who are more financially stable. Alternatively there may have been a falling out within the family and you may not think that certain relatives deserve anything.

Whatever the circumstances, there is always the risk that friends or relatives will be disappointed not to have inherited anything after you’re gone. This in turn may provoke them to try their luck and see if they can bring a claim against your estate. If they are successful, this will mean that your beneficiaries inherit less than you would have wanted them to.

Claims against estates by disgruntled relatives are on the rise and when planning your Will, you need to think about everyone who might be expecting to inherit something, even if you choose to write them out, and tell your solicitor about them so you can receive the correct advice. Whilst it is impossible to eliminate the possibility of a successful claim entirely, there are steps that can be taken to deter a potential claim, or make it more difficult to succeed.

Recent case law suggests that if you wish to exclude people from your Will, particularly close relatives such as children, you need to make your reasons clearer than ever. It is not usually possible to communicate reasons for excluding certain people within the body of a Will – Your Will names only the people you want to include and does not name the people you disinherit.

If a person has not been named as a beneficiary, this may cause them to ask whether they were intentionally left out, whether the person making the Will was confused, or whether a mistake was made.

In a situation where there may be a claim against your estate, writing a letter of wishes is crucial. The letter is a separate document but usually stored alongside your Will, to be opened only in the event of a challenge. The letter allows you to set out your motives for benefiting certain people at the expense of others, or for excluding people entirely. The letter can be produced as evidence if a claim is brought against your estate, and can be invaluable in defeating any allegation that you were confused at the time of making the Will and that leaving someone out was a mistake.

If you are worried that friends or relatives may claim against your estate after you’re gone, please contact us today for practical, bespoke advice. We are able to advise you about whether to write a letter of wishes, as well as other steps to deter any claim. We are able to store any letter of wishes with your Will free of charge. Call today!