We all have prized possessions and beloved family members, which is why there’s no arguing the importance of having a will to protect both in the event of your death. Still, there are thousands of incidents each year in which a family member has passed and relatives are left to interpret vague or outdated requests, struggling to inherit possessions or financial aid that would have been intended by the deceased.
In the absence of a will, Intestacy Rules will determine where your assets go, which may or may not reflect your personal wishes, and possibly exclude members of your nearest and dearest. Some people opt to use an online tool to set up their will, but in cases of complex family dynamics, these often leave too much room for error and may fail to sufficiently cover each family member appropriately. This can lead to the will being contested, and causing families to be torn apart as your last wishes are deciphered. Why not just be explicit in your requests?
For a watertight will that covers all areas of your life and makes sure your money goes where you want it to, it is always best to use an expert. Experienced UK Lawyers, George Ide, will offer a consultation session to discuss your situation, and make sure that the wealth you have worked so hard to earn is distributed exactly as you would choose.
Struggling to see how complicated it could be?
Why having a will is important
A young grandfather remarries, and not long after, dies of an unexpected heart attack. Without a will in place, everything is left to his new wife, who generously plans to make things fair with his ex-wife, adult children and grandchild… Until she is fatally injured in a car accident herself. Her teenage son from a previous marriage inherits everything, forcing the grieving family to buy back their childhood home and family heirlooms.
Understanding Intestacy Rules
A man dies, leaving behind only his adult step-daughter and treasured grandson. Without a will, the little money he has is returned to the state, as no blood relatives exist to claim it.
Remember that in the absence of a will, the courts will follow Intestatcy Rules which may not look after non-blood relatives even if you consider them family, but separated spouses or estranged children (or even siblings) may have a legal right to your estate.
Be careful when being vengeful
Sometimes a person is gifted a nominal amount in a will (like 50p), as a token to clarify that they were not accidentally forgotten about. In this case, a man specifies that his least favourite son is to ‘only’ inherit $10,000 – menial in comparison to the rest of his estate at the time, which was to be divided equally between his remaining children. What he didn’t plan for was a substantial change in circumstances by the time of his death, resulting in the total of his estate being little over $10,000. The financially struggling son was given exactly what was outlined, while the favourite children received virtually nothing.
It might seem like justice was served in this case, but it does go to show that a will needs to be kept updated every so often to reflect current family and financial values.
It’s not uncommon for people to leave their assets to a beloved pet instead of out-of-favour children. However, in this case, the deceased woman stipulated that her estate should be left to her dog, “as long as the dog shall live”, and remaining funds would be paid out to her son upon the dog’s death. The day after her funeral, the son had the dog put down and went to claim the full amount of the trust.
Look after those who looked after you
A neighbour had been looking after an elderly woman who loved her pet cats and spoiled them something rotten. The lady seemed to be otherwise alone, so the neighbour took a little bit of time out of days when he wasn’t working to help her around the house and keep her company. Upon the woman’s death, her three daughters appear, expecting an inheritance. Instead, the neighbour had unexpectedly been awarded $19million, the cats were being sent to live in comfort with an old friend, and the daughters were awarded just “a single litter box and all of its contents”.
Challenging a Will
For every one of these cases, there is of course someone on the receiving end of a harsh hand (whether seemingly deserved or not). Not much can be done in the case of Intestacy Rules, but it is possible to challenge a written will, even if it has a “no contest” clause. To win this kind of claim, the challenger will need to prove one of the following:
- Lack of capacity. This is where the now-deceased can be shown to have a diminished mental state at the time of signing the will, potentially misunderstanding the effects of their decisions.
- Undue influence; reliably proving that the testator (deceased) was being influenced or manipulated to include certain terms in their will.
- Lack of “due execution”, meaning that the will has not been signed by the testator or someone chosen to do so on their behalf in their presence. There must be two appropriate witnesses, both of whom must sign.
- The person had no knowledge of the content of their will, and did not give their approval.
- That the will is fraudulent or forged in some way.
If one of the situations above can be proved then a challenge to a last will and testament may be successful, but without evidence of blatant lies, manipulation or incompetence it will be a difficult and expensive ordeal. Ultimately, do you want to inadvertently leave your relatives in a situation where you will must be contested?