Recent case shows what can happen if a Will is challenged

In a recent case, a son who claimed his mother’s partner was “just a lodger”, has been forced to pay more than half of his inheritance to him.

This situation highlights how important it is to have a properly drafted Will in place.

What happened in this case?

In 2015, Sarah Campbell died unexpectedly at aged just 63 when flying to the Canary Islands. She did have a Will and her son, James Campbell, claimed that his mother had said that her entire estate would go to him when she died.

However, Andrew Banfield, who was Ms Campbell’s partner, went to the High court to claim a share of her estate.

Mr Banfield (who is disabled) said that he had become engaged to Ms Campbell in 1999 (six years after they entered into a relationship) and had been like a husband to her for over ten years.

The son denied that the engagement took place and said that his mother’s feelings towards Mr Banfield had deteriorated over time. He claimed that at the time of her death, she considered him “no more than a lodger”.

However, while the judge recognised that Mr Bansfield’s disability had put a strain on the relationship and made it “more burdensome” in the later years, he disagreed with Mr Campbell’s claim.

The judge said that: “I do not think it right or fair to characterise Mr Banfield as being no more than a lodger. The relationship continued to contain an element of mutual support, with the deceased making it clear to her close friends that she did not want to be on her own.”

As such, the son was ordered by Judge Teverson to sell Mrs Campbell’s house for at least £725,000 and give half of the proceeds to Mr Banfield to invest in a home. However, this money will be given back to Mr Campbell on his death.

The son was also ordered to pay £50,000 to cover Mr Banfield’s court costs from his share of the estate.

The value of professional advice

In this case a Will did exist, and James Campbell was named as the main beneficiary. However, under the Inheritance Act, a challenge against a Will can be made where there is perceived unfairness and reasonable financial provision has not been left. If such a claim is found to be successful, the Court has the power to re-distribute an estate.

To ensure your Will goes to the people you want to inherit, professional advice is strongly recommended.

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