Trust, estates & will disputes

Can you still claim benefits if you inherit money?
16 February, 2018

A common issue we are asked to advise on is the relevance of means tested benefits to a will dispute or an inheritance claim. People in receipt of such support are in vulnerable circumstances and are understandably concerned that:

  • Their position might prevent them from disputing a Will; or
  • Their financial position might be altered to their detriment by receipt of an inheritance.

Being in receipt of benefits is not a bar to disputing a Will. Indeed, a common Will claim that we pursue on behalf of clients is under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This type of claim is based on an assessment of the claimant’s financial resources and needs and the fact that you receive means tested benefits can support such arguments.

Whilst your financial circumstances may prevent you from affording to pay for legal advice, where your claim has merit, we will often be willing to act for you under “no win, no fee” agreements.

But what if you succeed – will the impact of any inheritance received leave you worse off? The most common means tested benefits in England and Wales are:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance;
  • Employment and Support Allowance;
  • Housing Benefit;
  • Universal Credit; and
  • Council Tax Support.

For these, an increase in your income and/ or capital could affect your eligibility to continuing claiming benefits and it could potentially stop all your benefit payments. If you are claiming benefits, you have a duty to report increases to your financial circumstances. Therefore, if you do not report your inheritance, you may have to repay some of the benefit money that you received and you could also face prosecution.

However, in most cases we deal with, the benefit of an inheritance will far exceed the lost income. In other cases, it is possible to maintain your entitlement to means tested benefits by the use of trusts.


If you are concerned that your eligibility to claim benefits may be affected by an inheritance, or you want advice about options that can reduce the impact that your inheritance will have on your income and/or capital through the creation of trusts or by varying a Will, please contact Phil Youdan at

Court refuses wife permission to claim part of husband’s estate
25 January, 2018

In July 2016, Mary Sargeant applied for permission to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against her husband’s estate.

Mary had been married to Joe for 45 years before his death in 2005. Joe’s Will left his guns and fishing equipment to his estranged son Jeff, a life policy and personal possessions to Mary and the rest of his

estate to a discretionary trust. Mary, their daughter Jane and Jane’s offspring were trust beneficiaries. A letter of wishes indicated Mary should benefit from the assets for her lifetime.  

Unfortunately, the income from the assets wasn’t enough for Mary’s living costs, leading to disagreements between Jane and Mary and ultimately Mary’s claim.

This type of inheritance claim is not unusual – family members and dependants who do not believe they have been properly provided for have a right to seek greater provision under the Act.

However, claims under the Act must be made within six months of probate being granted – after that period, the court’s permission is needed. In deciding whether to permit a claim to proceed out of time, the court will consider several factors, including strength of claim, the period of time lapsed, the cause of delay and whether it is just and reasonable to allow a late claim.

Mary’s claim was in 2016 – 11 years after Joe’s death, which is a very substantial delay. In asking for permission to proceed, Mary explained that the time delay was because she had misunderstood the trust (believing she partly owned assets) and had only recently taken independent legal advice.

The High Court refused permission finding that, whilst the claim had merit, the time lapsed was Mary’s responsibility and was not justified. Mary had been encouraged to seek independent legal advice in intervening years and it was likely Mary understood the trust as she had lived and resolved financial difficulties within the trust’s perimeter previously. Finally, allowing a claim would be unjust as Jane had managed trust assets in anticipation that she and her family would inherit them.

Please contact Philip Youdan on 01732 224 013 or to discuss potential Inheritance Act claims.




Aggrieved mistress takes grieving widow to Court after her lovechild was excluded from rich businessman’s Will
22 January, 2018

A recent newspaper’s report on an emotionally charged case where Ms Proles, on behalf of her four year old daughter, is seeking a share of the estate of Mr Kohli. It is claimed that Mr Kohli is the father of her daughter and, having met Ms Proles whilst living in England, then returned to India after being diagnosed with cancer. He died in India, aged 59, and left his estate of £2.5 million to his wife, Mrs Kohli.

Whilst the case is in progress and we will have to wait for the judgment to know the full facts, the outcome and the reasons for this, the legal principles of the case that the Court will have to consider will be of wider interest.

Under English law, unlike in many other countries, there is no obligation on parents to leave any part of their assets to their children. However, where a person dies ‘domiciled’ in England and

Wales, their children can seek a share or a larger share of their estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Domicile is a legal term referring to which legal system applies to an individual. In this case, Ms Proles claims it is England and Wales, claiming that he had substantial ties there including properties and business assets. Mrs Kohli’s legal team argue that his domicile remained that of India, where he returned to die.

If the Court accept Ms Proles’ case on domicile, it will then have to consider what if any share of Mr Kohli’s estate should be provided for her daughter’s maintenance. As with any such case, the Court will consider her needs and resources, as well as those of the widow, the size of the estate and any other relevant factors.

If you  have any queries in respect of the above please contact Philip Youdan at or by phone on: 01732 224 013.

Disputed Will fails due to poisoned mind – fraudulent calumny
4 January, 2018

What happens if someone makes a Will relying on incorrect information – this may sound unfair, but does it make the Will invalid? Disputing a Will in this type of situation is something we come across regularly and, in many cases, a Will made in these circumstances will be invalid.  The legal name for a Will made under

these circumstances is fraudulent calumny. What this means in practice is that someone must have poisoned the testator’s mind (with inaccurate information) against another person, to entice the testator to exclude that person from their Will.

A recent example of this type of Will dispute is the case of Christodoulides v Marcou. The case involved a dispute between two sisters (Niki and Andre) following the death of their mother (Agni) in 2012. Agni’s only Will was dated two days before her death and left everything to Niki. Agni had previously been clear about wanting a fair division between her daughters.  Andre contested the Will and, after a ten day hearing, Mr Justice Morgan held the Will was the result of Niki’s fraudulent calumny and therefore invalid.

Andre produced persuasive evidence, including the testimony of a professional Will writer who had drafted the Will with Agni, to the effect that Agni believed by excluding Andre from her Will she was leaving things equally between her daughters.  Niki had persuaded Agni that Andre had already ‘stolen’ €500m of her mother’s assets, which was not the case. Further the Will writer was misinformed regarding the value of Agni’s estate.

As Agni had no previous Will, her estate will be distributed equally between Niki and Andre under the intestacy rules.  The high court refused Niki permission to appeal the decision.

If you have concerns about a Will or an estate please contact Phil Youdan  by email: or by phone on: 01732 224 013 for an initial conversation to consider your options.

Can Grandchildren contest a Will?
8 December, 2017

When a grandparent passes away, there are two ways a grandchild may challenge their Will. If the grandchild thinks the Will is invalid, they can challenge it on this basis. Alternatively, grandchildren can

sometimes bring claims for financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the ‘1975 Act’). We will look at these in turn. 

Invalid Will

Anyone can challenge a Will on the grounds that the Will is invalid. A Will is invalid if:

  1. The Testator lacked the mental capacity to make a Will;
  2. The Testator didn’t know of or approve of the contents of the Will;
  3. The Will was not correctly executed;
  4. The Testator was subject to undue influence;
  5. The Will is forged or fraudulent.

If the Will is declared invalid, there may be an earlier Will that is valid. If not, the estate will be distributed according to the intestacy rules. These state a surviving spouse inherits half the estate and the other half if divided between the deceased’s children; if one of the children has died but left their own children, their share goes to their children – the grandchildren of the deceased.

Financial support

To pursue a claim under the 1975 Act, you must first establish that you are eligible to do so. There are a number of categories of eligible claimant but, for grandchildren, the most relevant are either that they were dependent on the Deceased or were treated by them as a “child of the family”. If eligibility can be shown, the Court will consider all of the circumstances of your claim to decide if an award should be made.

If you think you may have a claim against your late grandparent’s estate on these grounds, please contact a member of the Specialist Disputes team to discuss your situation further and click here to view our Guide to Will Trust and Estate Disputes.


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