The perils and stress of family disputes arising from contested wills has been thrown into a sharp light by a case in which a daughter seeking a share of her father’s £1 million estate was told to ‘get a job’ by a judge.
Wayne Dyer, director of Compass Wills & Estate Planning, said that the case highlights the importance of obtaining certainty on wills – thus avoiding disputes – and also illustrates how an unsuccessful claimant can be left with high costs.
Danielle Ames was cut out of the will of her father, Michael Leslie Ames, who died three years ago. His £1 million estate was left to his second wife and Danielle’s stepmother, 63-year-old Elaine Ames.
Danielle Ames argued she was due £300,000 in reasonable provision from the estate. She claimed she was dependent on her father and his death has left her not only bereaved but in financially dire straits.
She said a £300,000 payment will allow her and her family to buy a £600,000 home in their local area. According to her barrister, her family currently has a monthly deficit of over £2,000 and she is struggling to make ends meet.
However, Elaine Ames, Danielle’s stepmother, said her late husband cut his daughter out of the will intentionally because he believed people should work for their money, including his children.
Elaine Ames’ barrister said that Danielle Ames is a grown up, “fit and able to work” and ought to stand on her own two feet.
Elaine Ames told the court that her late husband had a strong work ethic and believed people should work for their money. She also said that her late husband had promised her that his money would be used to look after her in her old age.
The judge in the case ruled in favour of Elaine Ames saying that the daughter should get a full-time job. Danielle Ames has been awarded nothing and will have to pay hefty legal costs.
Dyer of Compass Wills & Estate Planning says the case firmly illustrates both the importance of wills and the perils of disputing them.
“This is an unusual case in the sense that the judge has chosen to comment on the lifestyle of the claimant but it also illustrates the importance of courts given to an up-to-date and accurate will and how difficult it can be to dispute them. Our advice would also be to get such documents done professionally and avoid all ambiguity as cases like this can be both costly and emotionally exhausting to all parties.”