Q&A - Stepfather won’t give us Mum’s jewellery because it wasn’t in her Will what can we do?

Q: Our mother inherited some valuable jewellery from her mother which she always said would pass to me and my sister when anything happened to her. However, when she recently died we discovered that she had not put this in her Will and our step-father has refused to hand over the jewellery, despite being present on many occasions when Mum said it would one day be ours.

Our step-father also has Mum’s engagement ring which was given to her by our Dad and some other pieces given to her by our paternal grandmother. We are particularly worried as we have heard our step-father is already seeing another woman and we couldn’t bear for a stranger to get our Mum’s jewellery. Is there anything we can do?

A: People are entitled to leave their estate to anyone they like and in whatever way they like. There are however a number of grounds that can be relied upon to challenge a Will. You need to seek legal advice on which, if any, of these grounds might be applicable. In some cases any claim in an estate must be commenced within 6 months of the date of the Grant of Probate so you should make an appointment with a solicitor as soon as possible.

If you are unable to contest your mother’s Will you could consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), and, in particular, mediation. A solicitor who specialises in ADR could open negotiations with your stepfather or arrange for a third party mediator to become involved. Your solicitor could help you to set out a good case for the return of the jewellery that hopefully would then lead to the resolving of the dispute without you having to take it further.