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Should Sonia Fowler look a gift horse in the mouth?

Posted on 3rd October 2017

So last night I watched Eastenders with interest as the mystery around Sonia Fowler’s time in Kettering was revealed.

It transpired that having cared for an elderly Mrs Waters she had in return left Sonia everything in her Will. She was confronted by a very disgruntled son who was cut out of his mother’s estate. He promised to get back what was rightfully his.

There is a bit of a misconception that as children, they are legally entitled to their parent’s inheritance; the law recognises and preserves a person’s right to testamentary freedom (subject to some exceptions). This is big money for charities who rely on legacies from deceased benefactors.

Sonia’s situation is not unique, many elderly people every year leave gifts legacies and sometimes their entire fortunes to friends, neighbours, nurses or employees who have cared for them in their final moments, preferring them to their own flesh and blood.

But as Sonia found out last night, such gifts do not come without their own problems and judgment from those around her.

Recipients of such gifts should be aware that the most common allegations to set aside those gifts will include:

  • that the deceased was not of ‘sound mind’ (which was instigated in last night’s episode)
  • that the recipient exercised some form of ‘undue influence’ against the deceased

Mr Waters may also, as the son of the deceased, bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for family and dependents) Act 1975.

We shall see if Mr Waters intends to use legal avenues or other ‘means’ (as is more expected in such soap operas) to achieve what he considers his entitlement to his mother’s estate.

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