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Complicated second marriages

View profile for 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 month after discovering he has an incurable brain tumour, previously made news when it was revealed that his £1.5 million estate, which he left in its entirety to his wife, amounted to less than £500,000 after debts and costs were settled. 

Mr Daniels Jnr’s condemnation was prompted by his contention that he had not received a penny from his step-mother despite her promise to “look after” him. He claims to have almost been left homeless when Mrs McGee closed down the party shop owned by him and his father although he revealed he was awarded a redundancy payment of £3,500 after contacting employment experts.     

Reading the news I couldn’t help but feel that inheritance disputes seem to be the latest hot topic in the press. 

The headlines buzzed last week amid the latest figures published from the High Court reporting a record number of inheritance disputes. In 2015 the Court heard 116 cases under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975. The Act affords the court discretion to vary the terms of the distribution of a deceased’s estate to produce a fair result where the will does not make proper provision for their relatives or dependants. 

Many reasons have been presented for the increase; rising property prices and even people living longer and their children being independent upon their death. However reflecting on the Paul Daniels case and our own experiences of inheritance disputes as well as the number of publicised disputes over the last few months, perhaps the most compelling explanation is that families have become more complicated. Second marriages can often leave children and ex spouses feeling slighted by the way a loved one decides to divide their estate and ready to explore the possibility of a claim. 

It is important to remember that there are things which can be done when drafting your will to secure assets for children from first relationships and to balance competing interests over an estate. Taking advice at this time can make the difference between a claim being made or not and the saving of tens of thousands of pounds in legal fees. If you do find yourself needing to explore whether or not you can make a claim against an estate, or defending such a claim, it is important that you receive expert and sympathetic advice which is why we have a specialist team which deals with this area.