Granddaughter cut from will for 'living in sin'

by Sarah Ashcroft

The importance of careful drafting and clear communication when making a will has been highlighted by a case at the High Court. Caroline Barrett, 28, was taken to court by her aunt and uncles, who claimed that her inheritance from her grandmother was not what the deceased had intended.

They said the inclusion of Ms Barrett in Irish-born Bridget Gabrielle Murray's last will and testament was a "mistake". Taking the dispute to the High Court, they claimed she was left money only because of a drafting error.

Sons David and John Murray, and daughter Catherine Turk said their mother, a strong Catholic, disapproved of Ms Barrett "living in sin" with her then boyfriend, who is now her husband.

"My mother was a very religious person," said David Murray, of Orpington, Kent. "She didn't believe in people living together before marriage."

Judge Robert Miles QC ruled Mrs Barrett, of Basingstoke, and her brother David Robertson out of the will. He admitted that the deceased Mrs Murray's views were "not particularly fair" and "even capricious", but said the estate should be shared among her three children.

Carful drafting of a will is essential to avoid disputes following a person's death. If DIY wills are not prepared properly, the true intentions of the deceased may not be carried out.

Keith Johnston, director of philanthropy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, notes that courts appear increasingly willing to overturn what is written in a will. "On the one hand the law has always said that you can leave your money to whoever you want, but you need to be aware that the courts are increasingly taking the view that relatives can be entitled to funds even where the will rules this out," he says.

Not writing a will is even more risky than leaving a poorly drafted document. People dying without a will leave themselves open to the UK's "arbitrary" intestacy laws, according to's Robert Powell.

"By writing a will you can ensure that any particularly deserving or needy relatives and friends are looked after when you die – and anyone who you feel you do not want to leave anything to, gets nothing," he argued.

Published on: February 16, 2012

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