Keeping your Will under review

The mainstream media has reported the sad circumstances of another family ripped apart arguing about who should get what after their parent has died. In the recent High Court case, a church minister who lived with her mother is arguing that she should be entitled to a larger portion of her late mother's estate than her five siblings, claiming that she provided care to her mother. Her siblings argue that she was not the main caregiver and should not be entitled to more than the share which was left to her in her mother's Will. The outcome of the case is, as yet, unknown, but it highlights once again the deep family divisions that dealing with the estate of someone who has died can create.

In the current case, it is reported that the deceased's estate is worth about £900,000 and the church minister is arguing that she should receive more than the £105,000 which she is entitled to under the Will. The matter has already reached the High Court in London. It is a reasonable guess that the legal fees incurred by the parties will take up a significant amount of the estate; someone will be considerably out of pocket whatever the outcome.

Clearly it is not possible to avoid an argument between family members after someone has died. It is likely that the mother in the present case thought that she was being fair by preparing a Will and dividing her estate equally between her children and grandchildren.

However, what many people do not realise is that it is possible to make a claim against the estate of someone who has died on the basis that an inheritance under a Will (or the intestacy rules if there is no Will) has not made 'reasonable financial provision' for the claimant. There are certain hurdles which have to be met before a claim can be made and any claim must be made within six months of the Grant of Representation being issued.

Anyone making a Will should always keep it under review. A Will is not a once-in-a-lifetime document. As a general rule of thumb, a Will should be reviewed every three to five years or on a life changing event, such as marriage or divorce. Perhaps the current argument being played out in the media might have been avoided if the mother had thought about changing her Will when her daughter moved in with her.  Alternatively, the mother may have felt that her daughter should only receive an equal share of her estate and could have left a letter of wishes explaining her reasoning with her Will.

Any step that someone can take to try to lessen the risk of a row erupting between family members after their death should be considered. Ensuring that a Will is up to date and reflects current wishes and family arrangements is important. Given the amount of legal fees that can build up if a matter ends up in court, taking early advice to mitigate this risk must be money well spent.

To discuss this or any other private client matter, contact us.

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