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Will Disputes

Woman forged mother's will

Leah Woodnott
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The Nottingham Crown Court has announced recently that a deceased’s daughter, Susan Johnson, has pleaded guilty for fraud. After Susan’s mother passed away in 2016, Susan forged her mother’s will by imitating her mother’s signature...

Latest figures show an increase in contentious probate cases

Rachel Leech
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The latest figures released by the court show the number of contentious probate cases continue to rise. These include cases where the validity of a will is being challenged, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. It...

Wife not prosecuted for changing husband's will

Rachel Leech
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The High court has upheld a decision made by the Civil Prosecution Service (CPS). The decision was not to prosecute 3 people accused of changing Reginald Atkin’s will and trying to defraud HMRC.  The CPS took the decision not to prosecute...

Forfeiture rule disregarded in heartbreaking case

Rachel Leech
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Forfeiture rule disregarded in a heartbreaking case where the wife was responsible for her husband’s death  The forfeiture rule means that you cannot benefit from someone’s death when you were responsible for the person dying. Most people...

Clitheroe v Bond: Birkett Long success in High Court will dispute

Rachel Leech
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In the recent contentious probate case of Clitheroe v Bond, the court overturned the validity of two wills. The Defendant, who was represented by Birkett Long, was successful in the will dispute on the ground that the Deceased lacked mental capacity to make...

Claims under the Inheritance Act

Lisa Cox
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Hope for success fees in claims against estates under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) are usually made by disappointed...

Who helps you if you lose mental capacity?

Lisa Cox
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The Coronavirus outbreak has prompted many of us to think about the future. Specifically, who would help us if we lost mental capacity.  When someone has the capacity, they can make a Lasting Power of Attorney. This appoints attorneys to make important...

A warning to executors to comply with court orders

Rachel Leech
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The High Court has issued a warrant for an executor to be arrested. The executor failed to obey previous court orders requiring him to account for his dealings of his mother’s estate.  This case should be a stark warning to executors to comply...

Making an emergency statutory will

Rachel Leech
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During the coronavirus pandemic, the Court of Protection are prioritising their workload. One type of work they are prioritising is statutory wills for people who have a very short life expectancy.  What is a statutory will?  These are wills...

Attorneys behaving badly - when you should seek advice

Rachel Leech
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My colleague Leah recently wrote a helpful blog about managing someone else’s financial affairs during isolation .  This is one of many helpful articles online providing guidance for attorneys and deputies about how to correctly fulfil their...

Meeting a contested probate lawyer - what to expect

Rachel Leech
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Making an appointment with a contested probate lawyer is probably the last thing you want to do when you have just lost a loved one. However, there are a variety of circumstances which mean people come to us seeking advice.  It can often be a daunting...

Proprietary estoppel: be our guest - put the farm to the test!

Rachel Leech
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The recent case of Guest v Guest is another in the long line of recent proprietary estoppel cases. To be successful with a claim for proprietary estoppel, you must show that: A promise was made You relied on that promise to your detriment The person who...

COVID-19: Government considers changes to the ways wills are executed

Rachel Leech
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Currently, wills must be witnessed by two people. However, self-isolation can make this difficult, so the Government has announced that they are urgently look to change the requirements around witnessing wills. However, in the meantime, find out how you...

McDonald's or KFC anyone?

Claire Read
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A Canadian court has recently upheld that instructions written on a McDonald’s napkin was a man’s last will and testament.  So, could you do the same? In theory, yes you can, provided that the will is properly signed by you and two...

Celebrity's multi-million pound inheritance dispute

Amanda Smallcombe
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Actress Elizabeth Hurley’s son, Damian Hurley, has been involved in an inheritance dispute with his multi-millionaire grandfather, Peter Bing. Background Peter Bing is a very wealthy individual. In 1980, Peter set up a family Trust for the benefit...

Making a claim against a will: standstill agreements

Amanda Smallcombe
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Mr and Mrs Cowan had been in a relationship for approximately 25 years, when Mr Cowan was diagnosed with a brain tumour. In 2016, the couple decided to get married. Mr Cowan sadly passed away later that year. Mr Cowan’s estate was worth in excess of...

£300,000 inheritance battle over which parent died first

Amanda Smallcombe
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This week the High Court resolved an inheritance dispute arising between two step sisters that concerned answering the question of which parent died first. What happened? John Scarle, 79, and his wife Marjorie, 69, died from hypothermia at their bungalow...

Amy Winehouse: Back to wills

Leah Woodnott
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The recent news of Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband trying to make a financial claim against her estate, eight years after her passing, provides a stern reminder about the importance of making a will. In 2011, Amy Winehouse died without making a will....

Making a will: take advice before a river becomes an ocean!

Lisa Cox
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I was saddened to read last month that there is doubt as to whether George Michael had sufficient capacity to make his last will. He made the will in 2013, and it has been called into question on the basis of his possible consumption of drugs and alcohol....

Wetherspoons will dispute

Rachel Leech
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A will made in a Wetherspoons pub, by a man leaving his estate to his taxi driver, has been declared invalid. Gary Mendez, 57, agreed to leave everything to his taxi driver, Dean Hughes. He made the will in his local Wetherspoons pub, over a pint, months...

Intestacy battle!

Leah Woodnott
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Step-sisters, Anna Winter and Deborah Cutler have gone to the High Court to fight over their potential inheritance after elderly parents, John Scarle and Ann Scarle died from hypothermia at their home in Leigh-on-Sea. John and Ann died without leaving a...

Man murdered by his brother due to inheritance dispute

Amanda Smallcombe
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When you are disputing a loved one’s inheritance, emotions will often run high. However, it is rare that someone will take such drastic steps as to murder a sibling. Last week, Richard Martin was convicted of his brother’s murder and was...

Inheritance disputes at an all time high

Amanda Smallcombe
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There has been a recent rise in the number of inheritance disputes being heard in court. One of the main reasons for this is due to DIY wills. They may seem like an attractive alternative to instructing a solicitor, but, more often than not, they cause...

R-E-S-P-E-C-T your estate planning!

Leah Woodnott
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My previous blog, “Aretha Franklin dies without making a will ”, concluded that Aretha’s family were left with the uncertainty of not knowing how her estate would be divided, as they believed that the soul singer had not left a will. ...

Would you challenge a loved one's will?

Rachel Leech
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Research from Direct Line suggests that 1 in 4 people would challenge a will if they did not get what they think is fair. These figures are not surprising given there has been an increasing number of claims in the High Court over a deceased’s estate....

What happens when someone dies without making a will

Leah Woodnott
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Avicii, the Swedish international DJ, died in April 2018 after taking his own life. Legal documents have now been made public by the Swedish Tax Agency, which state his parents, Klas Bergling and Anki Liden, are set to inherit his estate worth an estimated...

Are you a parent without a will?

Leah Woodnott
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Royal London has released new statistics stating that 59% of parents either do not have a will or have one that is out of date. When someone dies without a valid will, the intestacy rules are followed, which sets out who will inherit your estate. However,...

Millionaire's postcard will found valid!

Leah Woodnott
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Last month, the High Court of New Zealand held a will scrawled on the back of a postcard to be valid. Kathleen Steiner, a New Zealand millionaire, died aged 59, leaving an estate of circa $2.5 million.  Steiner did not formally prepare a will and...

Lodger disputes

Leah Woodnott
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A recent case highlights the vulnerable position when cohabitees unexpectedly survive their partners.  Background Sarah Campbell died unexpectedly in 2015 when she was flying to the Canary Islands. Sarah left a valid will and named her son, James...

Psychiatrist forged patient's will

Rachel Leech
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Psychiatrist forged patient’s will to inherit her £1.3 Million estate A NHS psychiatrist, Dr Alemi, has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 5 years in prison after exploiting her 84 year old patient, Mrs Belham.  Mrs Belham was...

Over 55s' dream bucket list revealed

Claire Read
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The Mirror listed an over 55’s dream bucket list and quite a lot of the list involves either finding love, lust or divorce. These are very personal things that can have a huge impact on one’s life and needs careful planning all round to ensure...

Aretha Franklin dies without making a will

Leah Woodnott
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Soul singer, Aretha Franklin, died last month aged 76 without making a will, despite being worth millions. As her family move on from her funeral, they are left with the uncertainty of not knowing how her estate will be divided. Aretha’s attorney,...

Keep your will up to date, you never know when you will need it

Rachel Leech
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A recent case highlights the importance of keeping your will up to date after two minor children had to make a claim against their father’s estate for financial provision. However, despite the estate being worth £3.5 million, the court only...

Millennials reliant on inheritance!

Leah Woodnott
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A new report from Sanlan UK has revealed 64% of 25-45 year olds expect to receive an inheritance from their parents and grandparents.  The report predicted that millennials are expected to inherit £1.2 trillion in the next 30 years! The CEO,...

Carer stripped of inheritance!

Leah Woodnott
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  A High Court Judge has ruled a deathbed will invalid and has stripped a man’s carer from her inheritance.     Donna Henderson has been accused of “guiding the hand” of the retired banker and millionaire, Marcel...

Brothers in High Court battle over their mother's estate

Leah Woodnott
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A recent court case involved brothers arguing over their role as executors of their mother’s estate as one claimed he should be entitled to a larger share than the others due to the care he provided for their mother whilst the others ‘left him...

Attorneys and deputies should be aware

Lisa Cox
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You can appoint attorneys to manage your property and financial affairs if you lose capacity, or to assist you whilst you have capacity. When making a Lasting Power of Attorney you are referred to as the donor and, typically, it would be family member or...

Financial abuse of Buzz Aldrin

Leah Woodnott
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US astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, is suing two of his children and his former business manager for mismanaging his finances after they alleged that he is suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Buzz alleges that the trio has misused his credit...

Danger! DIY wills!

Leah Woodnott
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Only a few weeks ago, the Law Gazette highlighted the importance of seeking professional legal advice when drafting a will, to ensure that a person’s wishes are truly reflected and the correct procedures are carried out. With today’s online...

Millionaire's partner left nothing in will!

Leah Woodnott
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Millionaire, Wynford Hodge died aged 94 last year, leaving nothing to his long-term partner Joan Thompson, aged 79, who he had been cohabiting with for 42 years leading up to his death. Wynford had an estate worth more than £1.5 million when he died...

Adopted son is cut of his natural father's will

Leah Woodnott
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It was announced recently that Charlie Gilmour, adopted son of Pink Floyd’s guitarist, David Gilmour,  has been left out of his natural father, Heathcote Williams’, will. Heathcote Williams, who died last year aged 75, changed his will in...

Another day, another proprietary estoppel claim!

Caroline Dowding
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These days in the farming world, I wonder if I’ll read anything other than proprietary estoppel  claims being brought against the farm. In the latest case, the High Court has granted the daughter of a Yeovil farmer a substantial cash payment in...

Don't rely on your Birth Certificate, let science help.

Amanda Smallcombe
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Last week the case of Nield-Moir v Freeman grabbed headlines in both the popular and legal press because, for the first time, a High Court Judge has directed a woman, Lorraine Freeman, to undergo a DNA test to establish if she is, in fact, the daughter of...

Should you be able to disinherit your own children?

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Je Te Promets – I promise you, or so said Johnny Hallyday in his famous 1986 song. Now, though, it appears his promises don’t count for a lot for his son and daughter, David Hallyday and Laura Smet, whom he disinherited in favour of his fourth...

Taylor v Redburn

Rachel Leech
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A recent court case highlights just how bitter family disputes over inheritance can become.  Carole Taylor, lived with James Redmond for 7 years before he passed away. James made a will 20 years before he died leaving his £900,000 estate to his...

Will disputes: Mind your manners!

Lisa Cox
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The late wife of Lord Lucan left her entire £575,626 estate to the homeless charity Shelter, leaving nothing to her three children whom she had not spoken to for more than 35 years. Lady Lucan went so far as to explicitly exclude the children,...

Will forgery

Lisa Cox
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Paul Coppola of Edinburgh, Scotland was sentenced to two years in prison for forging the will of his late cousin, Desiderio Coppola, days before his death in 2011.    Desiderio Coppola made a will in 2010 leaving specific gifts to family and...

Farming dispute goes to Court of Appeal

Caroline Dowding
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Last year I wrote an article about the contested estate of Farmer Roger Moore, who had dementia, and the claim his son made in respect of proprietary estoppel (in this case, a promise that “all of this will be yours one day”). Mr Moore’s...

David Cassidy excludes daughter Katherine from his will

Rachel Leech
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It has been announced in the news recently that David Cassidy, who recently passed away aged 67, has specifically excluded his daughter, Katherine Cassidy, from his will. David’s will states ‘it is my specific intent not to provide any benefits...

Do cohabiting couples and married couples have the same legal rights?

Katey  Stephenson
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Results from the Office for National Statistics show that there are currently 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK. This is a dramatic increase from the 1.5 million people cohabiting in 1996, but while this popular flexible living arrangement is on the...

Financial abuse of the elderly - the Tonight programme

Amanda Smallcombe
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ITV’s Tonight programme aired last night, highlighting the growing problem of elderly financial abuse. Statistics quoted are that, in the last three years, there have been 90,000 cases of elderly financial abuse crimes reported to the Police. Most...

Disputing a will: Larke v Nugus requests

Rachel Leech
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If you are considering disputing a will and are concerned about the circumstances in which a will was prepared, you may want to raise questions with the solicitor who prepared it. Usually, the solicitor would not be able to disclose any information, as to do...

Concerned about the validity of a will?

Rachel Leech
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Enter a caveat to stop the probate process If you are concerned about the validity of a will, one of the most important things you can do is enter a caveat. A caveat is a short document which you send to the Probate Registry, and stop a grant of probate...

Lack of knowledge and approval

Rachel Leech
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As discussed in my previous blog post, ‘Ways to challenge a will’ , one of the circumstances in which a will may be contested is if the testator (the person making the will) lacked knowledge and approval of its contents. When a will is...

Challenging a will - the weird and wonderful world of wills

Lisa Cox
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In order for a will to be valid, it must comply with the formalities laid out under s.9 of the Wills Act 1837. These conditions include that it must be in writing, signed by the testator or on their behalf in their presence by their direction, it must appear...

Ways to challenge a will

Rachel Leech
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Challenging wills is becoming increasingly common, but what are the grounds for doing so? The main grounds for challenging a will are: The will did not comply with the necessary formalities; Lack of knowledge and approval of the contents of the will; ...

Is it fair to share only one inheritance?

Philip Hoddell
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In a surprising judgment, the Court of Appeal has recently ruled that it would be fair to share the inheritance of one spouse but not the other.  After a 14 year marriage and three children (the eldest of whom was sadly disabled), Mr Radwan and Ms...

IS UR TXT A WILL?

Leah Woodnott
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This month the Brisbane Supreme Court in Australia has held the wording of a draft unsent text message on a deceased’s phone as valid and as an official will. The text message indicated who the deceased wanted his possessions to be left to, how to...

I'm late, i'm late - get quickly down the rabbit hole for inheritance claims

Leah Woodnott
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If you have recently lost someone and feel that the provision left for you in their estate was not enough to meet your needs, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 may provide you with an avenue of redress, however, you must be...

Why are we waiting? The story of the executor's year

Leah Woodnott
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To the annoyance of many beneficiaries, executors are not bound to distribute the estate of the deceased before the expiry of one year from the death; this is commonly known as “the executor’s year”. Despite its name, it applies to...

Mirror, mirror on the wall, not so clear after all!

Lisa Cox
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Mirror wills, quite simply, are two separate wills which reflect each other’s terms. However, each person remains free to change their will without recourse to the other. Commonly, a couple making mirror wills would leave everything to each other and,...

Should you make or defend a claim against an estate?

Lisa Cox
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This morning the head of our private client department at Birkett Long, Claire Read, spoke on BBC Essex radio about inheritance issues that can arise due to second marriages. Claire was joined on the show by Mr Herd, who recently lost his...

Charities dispute validity of will

Amanda Smallcombe
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Four charities are disputing the validity of Tracey Leaning’s will. Tracey left everything to her partner, on the proviso he took care of her three beloved dogs. Tracey originally made a will in 2007 leaving her £340,000 estate to the Dogs...

Dealing with the body of a deceased loved one

Lisa Cox
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It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between families when someone passes away.  These disputes can be over inheritance, what happens to certain items and even the burial and funeral. Often people leave instructions in their will regarding their...

Can you really decide who inherits your estate?

Claire Read
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In the UK we have what is called testamentary freedom.  This means we can leave our money and estate to whomever we wish (most European countries don’t allow this and a proportion (if not all) pass in accordance with set rules and pass to blood...

Nine lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of dementia

Rachel Leech
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Having recently joined the Court of Protection and Inheritance Disputes team and being involved in deputyship applications for those living with dementia, I was interested to read a recent study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International...

When do you own your parent's house?

Philip Hoddell
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In an unusual case, the Court of Appeal has recently clarified some of the circumstances in which living in a property might give the occupier a financial interest in the value of it, despite the title deeds being in the names of other family members.  ...

New stats show possible link between expectation of Inheritance and will disputes

Amanda Smallcombe
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According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies inheritance is likely to have a more important role in determining the future wealth of a child. The report published last week found that elderly people now have a larger estate to leave to their loved ones than...

Emmerdale reminds us of dementia sufferers this Christmas

Lisa Cox
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Last night’s special episode of Emmerdale showed us the world through the eyes of a dementia sufferer. Since the start of the year viewers have witnessed the heart-breaking decline in capacity of former Vicar Ashley, after being diagnosed with...

Undue Influence

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The Telegraph reported last week about a case in the High Court where a widow is defending a claim that she had undue influence over her husband when he made his will. Top financer Richard Thornton’s will left half of his money, estimated to be over...

Fifth Beatle inheritance dispute

Lisa Cox
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The dispute over the will of the late Sir George Martin dubbed the “Fifth Beatle” reignited in the press on Wednesday following his daughter’s comments on breakfast show “This Morning”. Alexis Stratford branded her late...

Complicated second marriages

Lisa Cox
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The late magician, Paul Daniels, appeared in the headlines again this week as his widow Debbie McGee was branded “a jumped-up dancer with no talent” and a “witch” by his son.  Mr Daniels, who tragically passed away less than a...

Grown-up children should "look after themselves"

Lisa Cox
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The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 hit the headlines again last week as Judge David Halpern QC in his judgement told Danielle Ames to “get a job” and ordered her to pay £35,000 in legal costs to her...

Don't let Alzheimer's disinherit your family

Caroline Dowding
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There was a very interesting article in the Telegraph last week where a mother tried to take advantage of her husbands Alzheimer’s to disinherit her son from the family farm, which totalled in the region of £10 Million. The reason why this is...

2016 Legal 500 results are out!

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"A standout name in Essex" quoted by Legal 500 2016 for Birkett Long! This year has been a great success for Birkett Long, 3 of our partners have again been ranked as "Leading Individuals". These are Claire Read, Head of Wills, Trusts...

A double edged sword

Lisa Cox
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As the controversial Ilot v Mitson goes to the Supreme Court, another adult child claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependants) Act 1975 has hit the headlines.  Danielle Ames is asking a judge to overturn her late father’s...

What makes a will valid?

Emma Harper
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It has been reported today in a leading case heard in the England and Wales High Court, that despite having dementia, an individual can still make a valid will. When someone is making a will, a lawyer must ensure that they have the mental capacity to do...

Cohabitees and wills

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Those who regularly read our blogs will be aware that cohabitees do not have the same rights as married couples and civil partners.  For example, as a cohabitee you have no automatic right to your partner’s property or to any part of their estate...

Donatio Mortis Causa

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Sanitation, central heating and the City of York. The Romans brought a lot to Britain and they also left their mark on our legal system. One little known doctrine, Donatio Mortis Causa, was first introduced by the Romans and has been re-evaluated by the...

Government figures show number of contested wills rising

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I have recently seen a piece on the BBC news website featuring a discussion about the rising number of will disputes ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34462706 ). This trend is certainly evident in my own experience and is one reason that we recently brought...

Hostile siblings independent deputy appointed

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The Court of Protection has ordered that an independent solicitor take over the management of the affairs of a lady with dementia after her relatives allegedly sold her belongings on Facebook and at car boot sales. The woman who is in her 80s moved into a...

Inheritance dispute widens scope for applications by ex spouses

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Hot on the heels of the very significant and widely reported decision in the case of Ilott v Mitson[2015] EWCA Civ 797 ( see case here ) comes another interesting case concerning an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act...

Will dispute back in the news 11 years after deceased died!

Caroline Dowding
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The well known Illot case is back in the news this morning – 11 years after the deceased died!  Back in 2002, a mother left her only daughter out of her will making it crystal clear she didn't want her estranged daughter Heather to benefit...

Think carefully about who you appoint as executors of your will!

Amanda Smallcombe
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Disputes between siblings can be bitter as illustrated by the case involving brother and sister Ian Rigby and Janice Wilby which has been reported in the local press this week. (click here for the article) Mrs Wilby and Mr Rigby were appointed as...

Think twice! Use a professional (take 2)

David Feakins
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So, a week or two after my original blog  (read here) on the dangers of D.I.Y wills went live, I saw that the Daily Mail is running a front-page promotion entitled “FREE TOMORROW – D.I.Y WILL KIT WORTH £9.99”. This is highly...

Have you been putting off getting divorced?

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I have been surprised recently by the number of people that are separated but for one reason or another have not formally dissolved their marriage. Whilst there are many reasons why a couple who have separated may not divorce, changes to the intestacy laws...

What happens when a 'curmudgeonly' Aunt leaves her fortune to her window cleaner?

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The answer may just surprise you. Having recently started my seat in the Wills, Trusts and Probate Team, I was surprised to learn that a will can be challenged in a number of circumstances and I was keen to understand how a court can legitimately overturn a...

I bought it so I own it!

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Well, if the thing you bought is a music download you probably don’t. Instead, you will have purchased a license to play the track or album and that license will have come with an extremely limited set of rights. In particular, that license is likely...

Will you be un-disinherited?!

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Further to Amanda Smallcombe’s article “Will you be disinherited?“  the recent case of Ilott v Mitson, the Court of Appeal overturned a decision that a deceased mother’s will could reasonably make no financial provision for her...

Will Disputes

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I was reading Claire Read’s article ( Don’t let writing your will turn into a TV drama ); Wills can certainly be a hot topic! It seems that many people don’t think about the consequences of their will after their death, especially on...

Woman forged mother's will

Leah Woodnott
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The Nottingham Crown Court has announced recently that a deceased’s daughter, Susan Johnson, has pleaded guilty for fraud. After Susan’s mother passed away in 2016, Susan forged her mother’s will by imitating her mother’s signature...

Latest figures show an increase in contentious probate cases

Rachel Leech
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The latest figures released by the court show the number of contentious probate cases continue to rise. These include cases where the validity of a will is being challenged, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. It...

Wife not prosecuted for changing husband's will

Rachel Leech
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The High court has upheld a decision made by the Civil Prosecution Service (CPS). The decision was not to prosecute 3 people accused of changing Reginald Atkin’s will and trying to defraud HMRC.  The CPS took the decision not to prosecute...

Forfeiture rule disregarded in heartbreaking case

Rachel Leech
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Forfeiture rule disregarded in a heartbreaking case where the wife was responsible for her husband’s death  The forfeiture rule means that you cannot benefit from someone’s death when you were responsible for the person dying. Most people...

Clitheroe v Bond: Birkett Long success in High Court will dispute

Rachel Leech
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In the recent contentious probate case of Clitheroe v Bond, the court overturned the validity of two wills. The Defendant, who was represented by Birkett Long, was successful in the will dispute on the ground that the Deceased lacked mental capacity to make...

Claims under the Inheritance Act

Lisa Cox
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Hope for success fees in claims against estates under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 Claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (“the Inheritance Act”) are usually made by disappointed...

Who helps you if you lose mental capacity?

Lisa Cox
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The Coronavirus outbreak has prompted many of us to think about the future. Specifically, who would help us if we lost mental capacity.  When someone has the capacity, they can make a Lasting Power of Attorney. This appoints attorneys to make important...

A warning to executors to comply with court orders

Rachel Leech
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The High Court has issued a warrant for an executor to be arrested. The executor failed to obey previous court orders requiring him to account for his dealings of his mother’s estate.  This case should be a stark warning to executors to comply...

Making an emergency statutory will

Rachel Leech
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During the coronavirus pandemic, the Court of Protection are prioritising their workload. One type of work they are prioritising is statutory wills for people who have a very short life expectancy.  What is a statutory will?  These are wills...

Attorneys behaving badly - when you should seek advice

Rachel Leech
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My colleague Leah recently wrote a helpful blog about managing someone else’s financial affairs during isolation .  This is one of many helpful articles online providing guidance for attorneys and deputies about how to correctly fulfil their...

Meeting a contested probate lawyer - what to expect

Rachel Leech
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Making an appointment with a contested probate lawyer is probably the last thing you want to do when you have just lost a loved one. However, there are a variety of circumstances which mean people come to us seeking advice.  It can often be a daunting...

Proprietary estoppel: be our guest - put the farm to the test!

Rachel Leech
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The recent case of Guest v Guest is another in the long line of recent proprietary estoppel cases. To be successful with a claim for proprietary estoppel, you must show that: A promise was made You relied on that promise to your detriment The person who...

COVID-19: Government considers changes to the ways wills are executed

Rachel Leech
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Currently, wills must be witnessed by two people. However, self-isolation can make this difficult, so the Government has announced that they are urgently look to change the requirements around witnessing wills. However, in the meantime, find out how you...

McDonald's or KFC anyone?

Claire Read
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A Canadian court has recently upheld that instructions written on a McDonald’s napkin was a man’s last will and testament.  So, could you do the same? In theory, yes you can, provided that the will is properly signed by you and two...

Celebrity's multi-million pound inheritance dispute

Amanda Smallcombe
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Actress Elizabeth Hurley’s son, Damian Hurley, has been involved in an inheritance dispute with his multi-millionaire grandfather, Peter Bing. Background Peter Bing is a very wealthy individual. In 1980, Peter set up a family Trust for the benefit...

Making a claim against a will: standstill agreements

Amanda Smallcombe
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Mr and Mrs Cowan had been in a relationship for approximately 25 years, when Mr Cowan was diagnosed with a brain tumour. In 2016, the couple decided to get married. Mr Cowan sadly passed away later that year. Mr Cowan’s estate was worth in excess of...

£300,000 inheritance battle over which parent died first

Amanda Smallcombe
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This week the High Court resolved an inheritance dispute arising between two step sisters that concerned answering the question of which parent died first. What happened? John Scarle, 79, and his wife Marjorie, 69, died from hypothermia at their bungalow...

Amy Winehouse: Back to wills

Leah Woodnott
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The recent news of Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband trying to make a financial claim against her estate, eight years after her passing, provides a stern reminder about the importance of making a will. In 2011, Amy Winehouse died without making a will....

Making a will: take advice before a river becomes an ocean!

Lisa Cox
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I was saddened to read last month that there is doubt as to whether George Michael had sufficient capacity to make his last will. He made the will in 2013, and it has been called into question on the basis of his possible consumption of drugs and alcohol....

Wetherspoons will dispute

Rachel Leech
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A will made in a Wetherspoons pub, by a man leaving his estate to his taxi driver, has been declared invalid. Gary Mendez, 57, agreed to leave everything to his taxi driver, Dean Hughes. He made the will in his local Wetherspoons pub, over a pint, months...

Intestacy battle!

Leah Woodnott
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Step-sisters, Anna Winter and Deborah Cutler have gone to the High Court to fight over their potential inheritance after elderly parents, John Scarle and Ann Scarle died from hypothermia at their home in Leigh-on-Sea. John and Ann died without leaving a...

Man murdered by his brother due to inheritance dispute

Amanda Smallcombe
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When you are disputing a loved one’s inheritance, emotions will often run high. However, it is rare that someone will take such drastic steps as to murder a sibling. Last week, Richard Martin was convicted of his brother’s murder and was...

Inheritance disputes at an all time high

Amanda Smallcombe
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There has been a recent rise in the number of inheritance disputes being heard in court. One of the main reasons for this is due to DIY wills. They may seem like an attractive alternative to instructing a solicitor, but, more often than not, they cause...

R-E-S-P-E-C-T your estate planning!

Leah Woodnott
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My previous blog, “Aretha Franklin dies without making a will ”, concluded that Aretha’s family were left with the uncertainty of not knowing how her estate would be divided, as they believed that the soul singer had not left a will. ...

Would you challenge a loved one's will?

Rachel Leech
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Research from Direct Line suggests that 1 in 4 people would challenge a will if they did not get what they think is fair. These figures are not surprising given there has been an increasing number of claims in the High Court over a deceased’s estate....

What happens when someone dies without making a will

Leah Woodnott
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Avicii, the Swedish international DJ, died in April 2018 after taking his own life. Legal documents have now been made public by the Swedish Tax Agency, which state his parents, Klas Bergling and Anki Liden, are set to inherit his estate worth an estimated...

Are you a parent without a will?

Leah Woodnott
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Royal London has released new statistics stating that 59% of parents either do not have a will or have one that is out of date. When someone dies without a valid will, the intestacy rules are followed, which sets out who will inherit your estate. However,...

Millionaire's postcard will found valid!

Leah Woodnott
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Last month, the High Court of New Zealand held a will scrawled on the back of a postcard to be valid. Kathleen Steiner, a New Zealand millionaire, died aged 59, leaving an estate of circa $2.5 million.  Steiner did not formally prepare a will and...

Lodger disputes

Leah Woodnott
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A recent case highlights the vulnerable position when cohabitees unexpectedly survive their partners.  Background Sarah Campbell died unexpectedly in 2015 when she was flying to the Canary Islands. Sarah left a valid will and named her son, James...

Psychiatrist forged patient's will

Rachel Leech
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Psychiatrist forged patient’s will to inherit her £1.3 Million estate A NHS psychiatrist, Dr Alemi, has been found guilty of fraud and sentenced to 5 years in prison after exploiting her 84 year old patient, Mrs Belham.  Mrs Belham was...

Over 55s' dream bucket list revealed

Claire Read
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The Mirror listed an over 55’s dream bucket list and quite a lot of the list involves either finding love, lust or divorce. These are very personal things that can have a huge impact on one’s life and needs careful planning all round to ensure...

Aretha Franklin dies without making a will

Leah Woodnott
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Soul singer, Aretha Franklin, died last month aged 76 without making a will, despite being worth millions. As her family move on from her funeral, they are left with the uncertainty of not knowing how her estate will be divided. Aretha’s attorney,...

Keep your will up to date, you never know when you will need it

Rachel Leech
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A recent case highlights the importance of keeping your will up to date after two minor children had to make a claim against their father’s estate for financial provision. However, despite the estate being worth £3.5 million, the court only...

Millennials reliant on inheritance!

Leah Woodnott
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A new report from Sanlan UK has revealed 64% of 25-45 year olds expect to receive an inheritance from their parents and grandparents.  The report predicted that millennials are expected to inherit £1.2 trillion in the next 30 years! The CEO,...

Carer stripped of inheritance!

Leah Woodnott
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  A High Court Judge has ruled a deathbed will invalid and has stripped a man’s carer from her inheritance.     Donna Henderson has been accused of “guiding the hand” of the retired banker and millionaire, Marcel...

Brothers in High Court battle over their mother's estate

Leah Woodnott
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A recent court case involved brothers arguing over their role as executors of their mother’s estate as one claimed he should be entitled to a larger share than the others due to the care he provided for their mother whilst the others ‘left him...

Attorneys and deputies should be aware

Lisa Cox
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You can appoint attorneys to manage your property and financial affairs if you lose capacity, or to assist you whilst you have capacity. When making a Lasting Power of Attorney you are referred to as the donor and, typically, it would be family member or...

Financial abuse of Buzz Aldrin

Leah Woodnott
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US astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, is suing two of his children and his former business manager for mismanaging his finances after they alleged that he is suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Buzz alleges that the trio has misused his credit...

Danger! DIY wills!

Leah Woodnott
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Only a few weeks ago, the Law Gazette highlighted the importance of seeking professional legal advice when drafting a will, to ensure that a person’s wishes are truly reflected and the correct procedures are carried out. With today’s online...

Millionaire's partner left nothing in will!

Leah Woodnott
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Millionaire, Wynford Hodge died aged 94 last year, leaving nothing to his long-term partner Joan Thompson, aged 79, who he had been cohabiting with for 42 years leading up to his death. Wynford had an estate worth more than £1.5 million when he died...

Adopted son is cut of his natural father's will

Leah Woodnott
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It was announced recently that Charlie Gilmour, adopted son of Pink Floyd’s guitarist, David Gilmour,  has been left out of his natural father, Heathcote Williams’, will. Heathcote Williams, who died last year aged 75, changed his will in...

Another day, another proprietary estoppel claim!

Caroline Dowding
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These days in the farming world, I wonder if I’ll read anything other than proprietary estoppel  claims being brought against the farm. In the latest case, the High Court has granted the daughter of a Yeovil farmer a substantial cash payment in...

Don't rely on your Birth Certificate, let science help.

Amanda Smallcombe
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Last week the case of Nield-Moir v Freeman grabbed headlines in both the popular and legal press because, for the first time, a High Court Judge has directed a woman, Lorraine Freeman, to undergo a DNA test to establish if she is, in fact, the daughter of...

Should you be able to disinherit your own children?

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Je Te Promets – I promise you, or so said Johnny Hallyday in his famous 1986 song. Now, though, it appears his promises don’t count for a lot for his son and daughter, David Hallyday and Laura Smet, whom he disinherited in favour of his fourth...

Taylor v Redburn

Rachel Leech
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A recent court case highlights just how bitter family disputes over inheritance can become.  Carole Taylor, lived with James Redmond for 7 years before he passed away. James made a will 20 years before he died leaving his £900,000 estate to his...

Will disputes: Mind your manners!

Lisa Cox
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The late wife of Lord Lucan left her entire £575,626 estate to the homeless charity Shelter, leaving nothing to her three children whom she had not spoken to for more than 35 years. Lady Lucan went so far as to explicitly exclude the children,...

Will forgery

Lisa Cox
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Paul Coppola of Edinburgh, Scotland was sentenced to two years in prison for forging the will of his late cousin, Desiderio Coppola, days before his death in 2011.    Desiderio Coppola made a will in 2010 leaving specific gifts to family and...

Farming dispute goes to Court of Appeal

Caroline Dowding
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Last year I wrote an article about the contested estate of Farmer Roger Moore, who had dementia, and the claim his son made in respect of proprietary estoppel (in this case, a promise that “all of this will be yours one day”). Mr Moore’s...

David Cassidy excludes daughter Katherine from his will

Rachel Leech
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It has been announced in the news recently that David Cassidy, who recently passed away aged 67, has specifically excluded his daughter, Katherine Cassidy, from his will. David’s will states ‘it is my specific intent not to provide any benefits...

Do cohabiting couples and married couples have the same legal rights?

Katey  Stephenson
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Results from the Office for National Statistics show that there are currently 3.3 million cohabiting couples in the UK. This is a dramatic increase from the 1.5 million people cohabiting in 1996, but while this popular flexible living arrangement is on the...

Financial abuse of the elderly - the Tonight programme

Amanda Smallcombe
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ITV’s Tonight programme aired last night, highlighting the growing problem of elderly financial abuse. Statistics quoted are that, in the last three years, there have been 90,000 cases of elderly financial abuse crimes reported to the Police. Most...

Disputing a will: Larke v Nugus requests

Rachel Leech
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If you are considering disputing a will and are concerned about the circumstances in which a will was prepared, you may want to raise questions with the solicitor who prepared it. Usually, the solicitor would not be able to disclose any information, as to do...

Concerned about the validity of a will?

Rachel Leech
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Enter a caveat to stop the probate process If you are concerned about the validity of a will, one of the most important things you can do is enter a caveat. A caveat is a short document which you send to the Probate Registry, and stop a grant of probate...

Lack of knowledge and approval

Rachel Leech
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As discussed in my previous blog post, ‘Ways to challenge a will’ , one of the circumstances in which a will may be contested is if the testator (the person making the will) lacked knowledge and approval of its contents. When a will is...

Challenging a will - the weird and wonderful world of wills

Lisa Cox
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In order for a will to be valid, it must comply with the formalities laid out under s.9 of the Wills Act 1837. These conditions include that it must be in writing, signed by the testator or on their behalf in their presence by their direction, it must appear...

Ways to challenge a will

Rachel Leech
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Challenging wills is becoming increasingly common, but what are the grounds for doing so? The main grounds for challenging a will are: The will did not comply with the necessary formalities; Lack of knowledge and approval of the contents of the will; ...

Is it fair to share only one inheritance?

Philip Hoddell
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In a surprising judgment, the Court of Appeal has recently ruled that it would be fair to share the inheritance of one spouse but not the other.  After a 14 year marriage and three children (the eldest of whom was sadly disabled), Mr Radwan and Ms...

IS UR TXT A WILL?

Leah Woodnott
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This month the Brisbane Supreme Court in Australia has held the wording of a draft unsent text message on a deceased’s phone as valid and as an official will. The text message indicated who the deceased wanted his possessions to be left to, how to...

I'm late, i'm late - get quickly down the rabbit hole for inheritance claims

Leah Woodnott
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If you have recently lost someone and feel that the provision left for you in their estate was not enough to meet your needs, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 may provide you with an avenue of redress, however, you must be...

Why are we waiting? The story of the executor's year

Leah Woodnott
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To the annoyance of many beneficiaries, executors are not bound to distribute the estate of the deceased before the expiry of one year from the death; this is commonly known as “the executor’s year”. Despite its name, it applies to...

Mirror, mirror on the wall, not so clear after all!

Lisa Cox
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Mirror wills, quite simply, are two separate wills which reflect each other’s terms. However, each person remains free to change their will without recourse to the other. Commonly, a couple making mirror wills would leave everything to each other and,...

Should you make or defend a claim against an estate?

Lisa Cox
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This morning the head of our private client department at Birkett Long, Claire Read, spoke on BBC Essex radio about inheritance issues that can arise due to second marriages. Claire was joined on the show by Mr Herd, who recently lost his...

Charities dispute validity of will

Amanda Smallcombe
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Four charities are disputing the validity of Tracey Leaning’s will. Tracey left everything to her partner, on the proviso he took care of her three beloved dogs. Tracey originally made a will in 2007 leaving her £340,000 estate to the Dogs...

Dealing with the body of a deceased loved one

Lisa Cox
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It is not uncommon for disputes to arise between families when someone passes away.  These disputes can be over inheritance, what happens to certain items and even the burial and funeral. Often people leave instructions in their will regarding their...

Can you really decide who inherits your estate?

Claire Read
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In the UK we have what is called testamentary freedom.  This means we can leave our money and estate to whomever we wish (most European countries don’t allow this and a proportion (if not all) pass in accordance with set rules and pass to blood...

Nine lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of dementia

Rachel Leech
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Having recently joined the Court of Protection and Inheritance Disputes team and being involved in deputyship applications for those living with dementia, I was interested to read a recent study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International...

When do you own your parent's house?

Philip Hoddell
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In an unusual case, the Court of Appeal has recently clarified some of the circumstances in which living in a property might give the occupier a financial interest in the value of it, despite the title deeds being in the names of other family members.  ...

New stats show possible link between expectation of Inheritance and will disputes

Amanda Smallcombe
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According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies inheritance is likely to have a more important role in determining the future wealth of a child. The report published last week found that elderly people now have a larger estate to leave to their loved ones than...

Emmerdale reminds us of dementia sufferers this Christmas

Lisa Cox
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Last night’s special episode of Emmerdale showed us the world through the eyes of a dementia sufferer. Since the start of the year viewers have witnessed the heart-breaking decline in capacity of former Vicar Ashley, after being diagnosed with...

Undue Influence

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The Telegraph reported last week about a case in the High Court where a widow is defending a claim that she had undue influence over her husband when he made his will. Top financer Richard Thornton’s will left half of his money, estimated to be over...

Fifth Beatle inheritance dispute

Lisa Cox
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The dispute over the will of the late Sir George Martin dubbed the “Fifth Beatle” reignited in the press on Wednesday following his daughter’s comments on breakfast show “This Morning”. Alexis Stratford branded her late...

Complicated second marriages

Lisa Cox
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The late magician, Paul Daniels, appeared in the headlines again this week as his widow Debbie McGee was branded “a jumped-up dancer with no talent” and a “witch” by his son.  Mr Daniels, who tragically passed away less than a...

Grown-up children should "look after themselves"

Lisa Cox
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The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 hit the headlines again last week as Judge David Halpern QC in his judgement told Danielle Ames to “get a job” and ordered her to pay £35,000 in legal costs to her...

Don't let Alzheimer's disinherit your family

Caroline Dowding
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There was a very interesting article in the Telegraph last week where a mother tried to take advantage of her husbands Alzheimer’s to disinherit her son from the family farm, which totalled in the region of £10 Million. The reason why this is...

2016 Legal 500 results are out!

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"A standout name in Essex" quoted by Legal 500 2016 for Birkett Long! This year has been a great success for Birkett Long, 3 of our partners have again been ranked as "Leading Individuals". These are Claire Read, Head of Wills, Trusts...

A double edged sword

Lisa Cox
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As the controversial Ilot v Mitson goes to the Supreme Court, another adult child claim under The Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependants) Act 1975 has hit the headlines.  Danielle Ames is asking a judge to overturn her late father’s...

What makes a will valid?

Emma Harper
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It has been reported today in a leading case heard in the England and Wales High Court, that despite having dementia, an individual can still make a valid will. When someone is making a will, a lawyer must ensure that they have the mental capacity to do...

Cohabitees and wills

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Those who regularly read our blogs will be aware that cohabitees do not have the same rights as married couples and civil partners.  For example, as a cohabitee you have no automatic right to your partner’s property or to any part of their estate...

Donatio Mortis Causa

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Sanitation, central heating and the City of York. The Romans brought a lot to Britain and they also left their mark on our legal system. One little known doctrine, Donatio Mortis Causa, was first introduced by the Romans and has been re-evaluated by the...

Government figures show number of contested wills rising

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I have recently seen a piece on the BBC news website featuring a discussion about the rising number of will disputes ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34462706 ). This trend is certainly evident in my own experience and is one reason that we recently brought...

Hostile siblings independent deputy appointed

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The Court of Protection has ordered that an independent solicitor take over the management of the affairs of a lady with dementia after her relatives allegedly sold her belongings on Facebook and at car boot sales. The woman who is in her 80s moved into a...

Inheritance dispute widens scope for applications by ex spouses

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Hot on the heels of the very significant and widely reported decision in the case of Ilott v Mitson[2015] EWCA Civ 797 ( see case here ) comes another interesting case concerning an application under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act...

Will dispute back in the news 11 years after deceased died!

Caroline Dowding
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The well known Illot case is back in the news this morning – 11 years after the deceased died!  Back in 2002, a mother left her only daughter out of her will making it crystal clear she didn't want her estranged daughter Heather to benefit...

Think carefully about who you appoint as executors of your will!

Amanda Smallcombe
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Disputes between siblings can be bitter as illustrated by the case involving brother and sister Ian Rigby and Janice Wilby which has been reported in the local press this week. (click here for the article) Mrs Wilby and Mr Rigby were appointed as...

Think twice! Use a professional (take 2)

David Feakins
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So, a week or two after my original blog  (read here) on the dangers of D.I.Y wills went live, I saw that the Daily Mail is running a front-page promotion entitled “FREE TOMORROW – D.I.Y WILL KIT WORTH £9.99”. This is highly...

Have you been putting off getting divorced?

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I have been surprised recently by the number of people that are separated but for one reason or another have not formally dissolved their marriage. Whilst there are many reasons why a couple who have separated may not divorce, changes to the intestacy laws...

What happens when a 'curmudgeonly' Aunt leaves her fortune to her window cleaner?

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The answer may just surprise you. Having recently started my seat in the Wills, Trusts and Probate Team, I was surprised to learn that a will can be challenged in a number of circumstances and I was keen to understand how a court can legitimately overturn a...

I bought it so I own it!

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Well, if the thing you bought is a music download you probably don’t. Instead, you will have purchased a license to play the track or album and that license will have come with an extremely limited set of rights. In particular, that license is likely...

Will you be un-disinherited?!

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Further to Amanda Smallcombe’s article “Will you be disinherited?“  the recent case of Ilott v Mitson, the Court of Appeal overturned a decision that a deceased mother’s will could reasonably make no financial provision for her...

Will Disputes

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I was reading Claire Read’s article ( Don’t let writing your will turn into a TV drama ); Wills can certainly be a hot topic! It seems that many people don’t think about the consequences of their will after their death, especially on...