Testamentary freedom is an important principle in English and Welsh law. It provides people with the freedom to leave their estate to whomever they choose in their Will, and without any legal obligation to provide for any particular family member or other individual.

However, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 does make provision for an excluded party who expected to inherit – such as a spouse, child or someone who was financially dependent, such as a non-married partner – to make a claim for a share of the estate.

Exercising Your Testamentary Freedom

If you intend to exclude someone in your Will, then it is important to make your wishes absolutely clear.  You could include these either in the Will itself, or in a Letter of Wishes. Setting out your wishes clearly will help explain to the disinherited individual why you have made this decision and could also be used in Court should a case be bought by that particular individual. Sometimes, solicitors will suggest that a small financial gift or a gift of an item with sentimental value is bequeathed rather than nothing at all. You may wish to add a no-contest clause that the gift is to be forfeited if the Will is contested by that particular beneficiary. While this isn’t legally binding, it may encourage the beneficiary to reconsider challenging the Will and accept what has been left to them in the Will.

It is important that you seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in Wills so that they can advise you on how to prevent a challenge to your Will and draw up a Will that reflects your wishes.

Making a Claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975

If you believe that a testator has failed to make reasonable financial provision for you in their Will or that you have been unfairly disinherited, then it is important to seek legal advice from a specialist contested probate solicitor as soon as possible to establish if you have a case and to discuss your options. It is always better to begin any claim before probate is granted to prevent an unscrupulous executor from disposing or dissipating the estate. Claims made after probate have been granted must be made within six months of the Grant of Probate being issued.

Contested Wills Solicitors

Oratto's member contested Wills solicitors are able to offer you comprehensive advice on your specific situation. They have years of experience and have handled some of the most difficult and complex Wills disputes. They understand what a difficult time this can be and will deal with your situation sensitively.