How could Cinderella legally win against her step-mother?

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With pantomime season fast approaching, our Private Wealth Disputes team cannot help but consider the inheritance position of Cinderella.

Second marriages and blended families mean that it is increasingly common for a step parent to come into the picture and, later in time, inherit the whole of their deceased spouse’s estate. This is often to the exclusion of the deceased’s children from their first marriage.

This is exactly where Cinderella found herself.

What can Cinderella do about this state of affairs?

In the story, Cinderella relied on a bit of Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo to resolve her problems. However, away from the world of fairy tales, where there is no Fairy Godmother or Prince Charming to help her out, Cinderella does have a range of legal options she could have used to challenge her evil stepmother inheriting the whole of her father’s estate.

  1. A possible option, based on what we know about Cinderella’s financial position, is that she was probably dependant on her father for financial support, during his life. Cinderella could bring a claim against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, seeking reasonable financial provision.
  2. He doesn’t get much screen time, but we know Cinderella’s father died of an illness. What was his mental state? If Cinderella’s father did not have mental capacity at the time of executing his will, then Cinderella can ask the court to set aside the will on the grounds of a lack of testamentary capacity.
  3. It’s no secret that Cinderella’s stepmother is evil. It’s more than possible that the stepmother coerced or exercised undue influence over Cinderella’s father so he made a will leaving his entire estate to her. This this is known as undue influence, which, if proven, can invalidate the will.
  4. The wicked stepmother may have told Cinderella’s father lies about Cinderella with a view to turning him against Cinderella. She may have said that Cinderella did not love him or was stealing from him etc. If these untruths led Cinderella’s father to exclude Cinderella from his will then Cinderella may be able to ask the court to set aside the will on the grounds of fraudulent calumny.

How might she pay the legal fees you may ask?

The story shows Cinderella didn’t have two pennies to rub together. Her coach was a pumpkin after all, and her footmen were mice. How would she afford a lawyer?

We at Gateley offer deferred payment schemes, which means you can pay at the end of your case. Alternatively, we also offer conditional fee arrangements, which you may know as ‘no-win, no-fee’ arrangements if your case passes an assessment.

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