Contested Wills and Financial Provision

Siblings cut out of £300,000 Will so stepson can look after parrot

Three siblings are fighting to win back their inheritance after their dead father’s second wife changed her £300,000 Will so her biological son could care for her much-loved parrot.

12 Jun 2023

Team name
Martyn Trenerry

Martyn Trenerry

Brett McLean claimed his late mother’s £300,000 house, which he said she left him so that he could look after her parrot and parakeet after she died. However, his step-siblings took him to court in a bid to try to force him to split the inheritance, both the house and the rest of his mother’s wealth, however the Court found in his favour. Now, the siblings are challenging this on appeal at the High Court.

Maureen McLean and her husband, Reginald McLean, originally made mirror wills in 2017, where all four children were entitled to an equal share of their parent and step-parent’s estate. The couple informed the four of their intentions through letters. Reginald died on 16 March 2019, and his wealth passed to his wife on his death. The main asset is the family home.

The Court heard that Reginald had trusted his wife and said there was no way she would exclude the children from the inheritance after he died. Maureen McLean died in 2019, her Will was changed 11 days before she died. Previously, she had stated she wanted the inheritance to be split equally but in the new version, she removed all the step-siblings, leaving everything to Brett McLean.

Following last year’s trial, the Judge found that, despite Maureen’s promise, there had not been a contractual arrangement, between Reginald and Maureen to the effect that neither would later change their Will without informing the other or following the death of the other.

This case highlights the importance of having concrete evidence obtained from the Will writer in order to assess the merits of the case.

Having considered the evidence, the Judge concluded that the solicitor who helped Reginald and his wife draw up the mirror wills in 2017 “told Reginald that there was no guarantee, even if he and his wife were making mirror wills, that Maureen would not change her Will and leave the entire estate to Brett”.

It was said that Reginald and Maureen both made the 2017 Wills on the basis of their trust in one another, and, as the solicitor’s evidence showed, they did not contemplate a situation where either would wish to change them. Maureen may have been morally bound, but she was not legally bound and was therefore legally entitled to change her Will and make the 2019 Will.

It was stated that she had done this because the other claimants owned their own properties and would benefit from their mother’s Will when the time arrived.

M&P Commentary

Martyn Trenerry, Member, Solicitor and specialist in Dispute Wills, said:

“Mullis & Peake can assist you with any concerns you might have about a probate dispute. We will help you identify and anticipate potential issues, understand your options and implement the best strategy. Early intervention will reduce your risks and increase the chances of resolution.”

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