When making a will, it is vital to remember your obligations to family members and others who depend upon you financially. As a High Court ruling showed, however, your duty is to make reasonable provision for them – no more.
The case concerned a matriarch who died just short of her 100th birthday. By her will, she directed the sale of her home, which was worth about £875,000. She instructed that the proceeds of sale should be split into six equal parts before being divided, in various proportions, between her six children and six grandchildren.
Her eldest daughter was apportioned 70 per cent of one of the parts. She was also bequeathed one sixth of the modest residue of her mother's estate. Her inheritance was, overall, worth about £109,000. However, she asserted that the will did not make reasonable provision for her. She launched proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, seeking an increased share of her mother's estate.
In rejecting her claim, however, the Court found her to be an unsatisfactory witness. Her evidence contained substantially exaggerated statements about the level of care she had provided to her mother in her old age. Having initially asserted that she gave up work at her mother's request in order to look after her, she subsequently accepted that she did so voluntarily for her own reasons.
Just because her mother had unwillingly provided her with rent-free accommodation for a number of years did not mean that she was under an obligation to do so. Her mother was not responsible for meeting her needs, whether by providing her with somewhere to live or otherwise. She had no greater obligations or responsibilities towards her daughter than towards any of her other children and their families.