You are the Judge – a new will dispute

 

The seventh scenario in our You are the Judge series is another will situation. Earlier on in the series we looked at a will situation in which there was confusion over who should be the beneficiary. This, however, is about the perceived wishes of the deceased.

What do you think the correct answer is in this situation?
 


Natalia comes from family of mountaineers. Her mother and father met during an ascent of Everest, and her grandfather always claimed that he was taught to climb by Mallory. Natalia, however, is scared of heights and instead wants to pursue a career in marine biology.

Her grandfather has died, and according to his will Natalia is entitled to £30,000 which he “hopes she will use to follow in his mountaineering footsteps”.
 
Natalia is very keen to use her inheritance to travel to interesting marine locations, but her parents have never been happy with her deviance from family tradition. They are refusing to give her the money, saying that it was only there for her to become a mountaineer.

Do Natalia's parents have the right to withhold the inheritance? Can Natalia do whatever she likes with it?

Answer:

Natalia is in luck.

Even if her grandfather had intended her only to use the money for mountaineering, that is not what the will says. In the law, expressing a 'hope' or a 'wish' is known as a precatory clause and is not enough to establish a conditional inheritance. Natalia can use the money for whatever she wants.

The only way in which a precatory clause can be adhered to is if there was a further mention of the issue in the will, with more explicit language about spending the money. For example, if her grandfather mentioned a mountaineering course costing £10,000, this might make the courts think about enforcing this 'hope'.

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