Will Disputes Between Families

Will Disputes Between Families Crawley

This case of Lothian v Dixon and Webb [2014] shows the issues that can arise in case a loved one dies without an up-to-date will.

A cousin of sisters Mrs Lothian and Mrs Webb in 1983 made a will to leave her estate equally to both sisters.

With the passing years, the cousin lost contact with Mrs Webb, but she remained close with Mrs Lothian. In 2010 as the cousin got terminally ill, she asked Mrs Lothian for coming and living with her for helping with daily tasks and running of the seaside hotel owned by her. In return, she decided to leave Mrs Lothian with her entire estate. It was all worth over £1 million in company shares and other assets.

The offer was accepted by Mrs Lothian, even though it involved considerable upheaval. She left her home in Scotland, where her husband managed his business. She nursed her cousin as she got ill and also undertook general duties for the hotel. Also her husband visited at weekends performing general duties as per the requirement.

Two years later, the cousin died. Even after giving instructions to the solicitor for a new will that reflected their arrangement, she died without executing the will.

It was accepted by Mrs Webb that Mrs Lothian kept her promise to the cousin, but she argued about her sister getting benefit from the situation as she got free boarding and lodging while for family holidays, she also used the hotel. She argued counterbalancing of the Lothians’ detriment because of this, and therefore their entitlement should be around £40,000 plus travel expenses.

The judge did not agree for this as he found that Mr and Mrs Lothian significantly changed their lifestyle for helping the cousin with substantial detriment to their won life. This compelled them to live apart for two years. Also, by the death of cousin, Mrs Lothian got into a number of health issues, including a hip replacement that she even postponed for assisting her cousin.

The judge said that the boarding and lodging received was not any kind of meaningful compensation or countervailing benefit for the provided commitment at the outset and they both adhered to it. The judge decide that the only appropriate award was to grant Mrs Lothian the whole net residuary estate, after any legacies payable under the earlier will is satisfied.

The case demonstrated how in appropriate circumstances, the courts uphold a promise made by a testator of a will which is contradictory to the actual will.

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