We regularly report on cases which reach the press and which remind us of the importance of making a will. The fact that so many cases reach court at all, is a good enough reason to continue to stress the importance of making a will.
A will is a document in which a person states who they would like to administer their estate after their death and sets out how their estate should be divided up. In this way, the person making the will can ensure that their loved ones are looked after, that any charities of their choice benefit and that anyone they do not want to inherit is left out.
In the absence of making a will, a deceased person's estate is divided up in accordance with a strict list of entitlement called the 'intestacy rules'. Matters can become even more complicated, when a couple die without having left a will and it is not possible to establish who has died first. Whilst this would be a mercifully rare occurrence, these are the facts faced by a court in a recent case.
Sadly, an elderly couple died in their home of hypothermia. There were no children of their marriage, but each of them had children from previous relationships. The High Court has to decide who is deemed to inherit first as there is no clear evidence as to this fact.
The result could mean that one set of children inherit the entirety of the estate and the children of the other deceased receive nothing. The decision is expected later this year.
Apart from the unseemly argument between their children, what is even more sad is that the couple's house was worth £280,000 – presumably they could have sold it and moved somewhere smaller which they could have afforded to keep warm.
This case highlights yet again the importance of preparing a valid will. It is especially important to take specialist advice when there are children of previous relationships involved.
To discuss this or any other private client related matter, contact us.