Don’t Look Back In Anger – Probate Insurance
25th October 2018
Writing a will gives you the peace of mind that when you die, your estate will be divided up just as you wish – whether between your children or grandchildren, charities, your spouse…writes Kate Thorp, our Executor & Inheritance Protection Manager…
Yet, surprisingly in recent years, the number of cases of wills being challenged after a loved one’s death has increased.
Recent disputes around the estates of celebrities include:
- Singer Michael Jackson’s siblings claiming his will was fake after being left out of his will following his death in 2009.
- Actor Robin William’s third wife and adult children going to court in 2015 over his “celebrity memorabilia,” despite his estate being carefully left in trusts between them all, prior to his death.
- Singer James Brown. His case is still ongoing since his death in 2006. The singer reportedly left most of his estate to a number of charities – yet his family are disputing this.
It’s not just celebrities who fall foul of will disputes when they die, however, in an ever increasingly litigious society, disgruntled people are challenging wills where they believe they are entitled to inherit – even if a will does not make provision for them and does not comply with the wishes of the deceased.
What about the well-publicised Ilott v Mitson case? This dominated the press for nearly a decade and finally concluded last year. This is the case of an estranged adult daughter being left out of her mother’s will. The deceased left her estate worth around £500,000 to three charities, which the daughter, Heather Illot, challenged.
A district judge made an original settlement of £50,000 to Mrs Ilott who appealed against it saying the amount was not generous enough. This went to the Court of Appeal who then ruled that Mrs Ilott should be awarded £160,000, including £143,000 to buy her housing association home.
The three charities who were due to receive the monies as per the deceased’s wishes took the case to the Supreme Court, who overturned the Court of Appeal decision and reverted to the original settlement of £50,000.
Why are wills being challenged?
In the last decade, soaring house prices have turned families on relatively modest incomes into property millionaires almost overnight. And the introduction of pension freedoms in April 2015 means that families may have more cash to leave to relatives when they die.
This, coupled with modern family dynamics, with divorce, second marriages, stepchildren and half-brothers and sisters etc., may mean that grieving is put to one side while those left behind battle for what they think is theirs – even if that doesn’t agree with what a will says.
I find this all very sad. We are often asked to insure against will disputes at DUAL. In this day and age, perhaps it is now more important than ever not to look back in anger but to accept the final wishes of the testator.