Many of you will have seen the brief feature on the BBC Breakfast News on 7th October, featuring a disappointed beneficiary. 

The background was that his father had died, leaving all his estate to his second wife. It appears that the couple had ‘mirror wills’, i.e. wills which reflected each other in content. So each party left their estate to the survivor; on the death of the second of them, the estate was to be split between their respective children. Each had children from earlier relationships. 

The second wife survived the father by many years; after about 11 years had gone by, she changed her will. She would have been perfectly entitled to do this. Her new will left all her estate (which included what she had inherited from the father) to her own children. 

The disappointed beneficiary, who was the father’s son, said that he knew that this was not what his father wanted. It had become his mission in life to fulfil what he perceived was his father’s last wish. 

The problem is that if you leave your estate to someone absolutely, it means just that. The person who inherits can do exactly what they want with their inheritance. Whilst in the early years of widowhood, nothing may change, as years go by circumstances alter and what seemed a good arrangement for both parties when making their wills, may not remain valid. This is how disputes begin. They are costly to run in financial and emotional terms. 

Your starting point is to make a will, but do take advice and think it through properly! A will disposes of everything you have ever worked for, or received financially, and distributes those assets to the people or the charities which mean the most to you.  

Don’t be tempted to cut corners and buy a DIY pack or copy one you have seen. A will is inexpensive – around £200 to £300 – but its value is immeasurable to those you leave behind. 

Please contact a member of the Private Client team for advice about making a Will and safeguarding your assets.

If a dispute has already broken out, don’t worry, we have some of the best qualified contentious probate specialists in the Thames Valley

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