A Perthshire pensioner has left her step family “devastated” after she cut them out of her will and bequeathed her entire £600,000 estate to charity.

93-year-old Joyce Greenwood drew up a ‘secret’ will preventing her two stepdaughters from inheriting any share from their late father’s savings and home.

Joel Greenwood passed away in 2006, leaving his entire estate to wife Joyce. After his death, Mrs Greenwood drew up a will to bequeath most of the estate to her two stepdaughters, with a small amount going to charity.

Stepdaughter Anne Aitken said she was ‘stunned’ to find out that, unknown to the family, Mrs Greenwood changed her will by post in 2016.

The will now stipulates that the majority of the £600,000 will go to the Alzheimer’s Society and Macular Degeneration, with a small portion going to the Arthritis and Stroke Association.

Ms Aitken said: “She did it without telling anyone… it came as a complete surprise.

“I was just stunned. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was having nightmares about it.”

The practice of leaving stepchildren out of a will is known as ‘sideways disinheritance’. 

Alan Roughead, a partner at leading Perthshire law firm Macnabs, said:

“This case underlines the importance of taking expert advice when wills are prepared,  particularly couples preparing wills together.

“While recent inheritance tax changes have sought to treat children and stepchildren similarly for inheritance tax purposes, stepchildren fundamentally still have no legal right to inherit under Scottish law from a step-parent’s estate – even if the step-parent has previously inherited everything from the step-child’s biological parent on the first death.

“Trust structures are commonly used in wills to remove the possibility of a ‘sideways disinheritance’ and this is something I am increasingly asked to advise on, as non-typical family structures become more commonplace.”

Image: Anne Aitken