The importance of updating your Will to stop your assets going to the dogs

News Article

Earlier this year we reported on a long-running dispute involving a contested Will.

The case of Ilott v Mitson – which dragged on for almost a decade – saw disinherited daughter, Heather Ilott, ultimately lose out after she unsuccessfully attempted to dispute her mother’s Will that named three animal charities as the major beneficiaries of the estate.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the charities, leaving Mrs Ilott with only £50,000.

Now, another case involving a contested Will, again has a number of animal charities battling for a share of an estate to which they believe they are entitled.

The dispute involves the assets left by animal lover, Tracey Leaning who, in 2007, made a Will leaving her entire estate to a number of charities including Dogs Trust, World Animal Protection, Friends of the Animals and Heart Research UK.

However, it is alleged that she subsequently made a second Will. In it, she stated that her partner Richard Guest, whom she had met in the years following the drafting of the first Will, should instead inherit everything, on the understanding that he lived in her home, so that he could take care of her three beloved dogs.

The second Will, which was drawn up in 2014, was a handwritten document and was witnessed by her two neighbours.

Ms Leaning, who died in 2015 following a battle with cancer, left behind savings and a property worth a total of £340,000.

However, lawyers acting on behalf of the charities that had stood to gain, are now contesting the legality of the new Will and are now planning to take Mr Guest to court.

Mr Guest, told the Daily Mail: ‘They have put me through hell. I’ve had to relive my loss and face financial hardship to defend the wishes of someone I loved. I almost lost the will to live.

“They are trying to say the second Will is invalid because the paper with the signature on it wasn’t stapled to the other part, but it was in the same sealed envelope and was only opened by her solicitor.”

Tim Steele, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in Wills, probate and estate matters, said: “This latest case serves to illustrate the importance of having a Will professionally drafted and witnessed, so that it is clear that all previous Wills are revoked and that the latest document is indeed the ‘last’ Will and testament.

“Rather than attempting a do-it-yourself Will, a professionally drafted document will also help to reduce the chances of a successful challenge by ensuring that there is professional evidence available regarding issues such as mental capacity, knowledge and approval and due execution.

“We have experience of drafting Wills and also handling disputes involving estates here at Palmers. For more information, please contact us.”