Will writing is a vital but often difficult piece of work to undertake, as the writer needs to ensure their will is legal, is placed in secure will storage, caters for their family and does not break any promises to any family members.
The death of a family member is exceptionally emotional and the law of wills and probate as primarily defined by the Wills Act 1837 aims to ensure the deceased’s last wishes are met as much as possible.
As such, there are typically two main ways to challenge a will:
- By disputing its validity (a will must be in writing, made voluntarily by a person of sound mind and signed in the presence of two witnesses who also sign the will), or,
- By being not feeling you have been reasonably provided for in the will and having evidence for this.
There is a third way to challenge a will, and that is when it goes against a promise that can be proven. This is known as proprietary estoppel, a claim to land based on a promise that was not kept but was relied upon to the detriment of the claimant.
One of the best examples of this is the case of the “Cowshed Cinderella”, a dispute between three daughters of a farmer over the right to an estate worth nearly £4m.
Eirian Davies would work hard since she was very young toiling on the farm whilst her sisters went out and parties, relying on the promise of her father that she would own everything one day. She relied on this promise, working for nothing or a pittance based on this promise.
The high court initially awarded her £1.3m based on this claim, an amount reduced to £500,000 on appeal, but highlighting how important it is to keep promises in your will.