Q&A - My step-mother inherited everything from my father and then left it to her children. Can I challenge her will?

Q: After my mother died my father married an old family friend who had had a difficult time bringing up four children on her own after a messy divorce from a husband who was a gambler. I know my father was anxious to ensure she was well provided for if anything happened to him but it came as a shock to find when he died in 2012 that he had left absolutely everything to her in his will. Now she has died and has left everything to her own children, including the family home where I was born. Can I challenge my step-mother’s will?

A: This situation is not uncommon and we receive several enquiries every year from people who find themselves in a similar position and want to challenge a Will. The hard truth, however, is that people are legally entitled to leave their wealth to anyone they like. As you didn’t challenge your Father’s Will, your step-mother legally inherited everything from him and she was then entitled to pass it on in whatever way she wished when she died. Unless you could show that your step-mother’s Will was invalid, or that you were dependent upon her in some way, any challenge is likely to fail.

Your story, and many others like it, highlights the need for people to seek the right legal advice before making a Will, so that it fully reflects their intentions. In your father’s case, it would have been possible for him to ensure your step-mother was taken care of throughout her lifetime and yet still have left part or all of his remaining estate to you. This may have been what he wanted, but it sounds like he just didn’t get the right advice. You are never too young to make a Will, but you should regularly update it to reflect the changes in your life and circumstances.