Will your beneficiaries inherit more than you bargained for?
The importance of a will which reflects your precise wishes!
A good will should reflect your wishes, be valid and ensure that your estate is distributed in the way that you want. In England and Wales, you can leave your estate to whomever you like e.g. relatives, charities and pets.
Wills can also include unusual last requests or funeral instructions.
Your beneficiaries may however inherit more than you bargained for!
However, this freedom can come at a price, as some wills can cause family disputes or cause claims to be made against an estate. In fact we have friends to whom this has happened, in some instances causing unbelievable harm and hurt which could have been avoided if everything had been properly set up from the outset.
Life Matters for Lymington with Lester Aldridge
This month’s Life Matters from Lester Aldridge Solicitors comes from Victoria Jones, Partner in the Lester Aldridge disputed tax, trust and wills team.
"Wills are not always private
It can be tempting to use a will to make derisory comments or to seek ‘revenge’.
For example Samuel Bratt’s will left a £330,000 legacy to his wife, who apparently never let him smoke. So, he added the catch that his wife had smoke five cigars a day in order to receive her legacy.
However, including these types of clauses can cause claims and incur unnecessary costs to an estate.
Also remember that wills can become public documents, which can then be accessed by anyone for a small fee. So it is important to think carefully about whether or not you want to make any private family disputes more public. For example the will of Anthony Scott which stated: "To my first wife Sue, whom I always promised to mention in my will. Hello Sue!”
Unusual wishes in wills
Quirky wishes in wills can also be problematic, as not everyone may be either willing or able to accommodate unconventional requests at what is already a difficult time.
When Fredric Baur (founder of the famous Pringles crisps brand) died in 2008, he left instructions with his family to bury part of his ashes in a Pringles can. They duly obliged, but not every family may be as understanding.
It is also important to think about the practicalities involved in fulfilling unusual wishes. For example, one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s last requests was that his hair be made into bracelets and shared amongst his family and friends.
Claims arising from wills
Another issue is when a will fails to make sufficient financial provision for certain people. For example, the will of Sarah Clarke stated that she had left £1 to her daughter “for the kindness and love she has never shown me.” That may have reflected Ms Clarke’s feelings, but this type of clause can result in claims being issued against estates.
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 certain relatives and financial dependants are able to bring claims for ‘reasonable financial provision’ against an estate. So, if you leave certain relatives or financial dependants either little or nothing in your will, they may later be awarded a share of your estate anyway.
What if I want to exclude someone in my will?
If you are considering excluding a close relative or financial dependant from your will it is important to obtain specialist legal advice about this at the time when the will is made.
You cannot prevent a claim from being made, but there are steps that you take to document and explain your wishes and also to try to minimise the risk of a claim occurring.
In summary, in addition to passing on assets and family heirlooms, it is vital to consider what other unexpected ‘legacies’ your will may leave behind.
What if I am dealing with a claim involving an estate?
If you are the executor of beneficiary of an estate where a claim has been made or you are considering making a claim against an estate, our Disputed Wills Team offer a free initial 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your options."
First step in all situations: free consultation
Lester Aldridge Solicitors are based in London and Bournemouth where the office covering the New Forest is situated conveniently close to the main Bournemouth train station. Their specialist teams in the various fields of law will be happy to advise and assist you, starting with a completely free initial consultation during which you can decide whether you feel able to trust them with your confidential information.
Disputed Wills, Trusts and Probate
Take advantage of a free initial 30 minute telephone consultation with Victoria Jones, Partner, regarding any of the following:
Claims for financial provision to be made from an estate
Challenges to the validity of a will
Disputes about legacies
Challenges to lifetime gifts
Problems in the interpretation of wills and trust documents
Disputes between executors or trustees and beneficiaries
Problems with estate administrations, including challenging costs and recovering debts
Cases in connection with the Mental Capacity Act 2005, including applications to the Court of Protection for statutory wills and the appointment and conduct of deputies and attorneys.
For more information please see https://www.lesteraldridge.com/individuals/disputed-wills-trusts-probate/
Call Victoria on 01202 786152
Life Matters for Lymington with Lester Aldridge, January 2019