Passing away without a Will can cause chaos for your loved ones

Trusts and Estates

When one of our clients passed away recently without a current Will, her family had to deal with a lot of unnecessary additional stress when trying to organise her estate.

Recently one of our long standing clients, Jane (not her real name) passed away. Jane had mentioned to us several times in the past few years that she really needed to update her Will but despite our follow ups had never made the time to come and see us or send us an email setting out her thoughts.

Jane’s situation is not uncommon, Jane had two children from a previous marriage, had been divorced and was in a new relationship for the last two years prior to her death, at which time she also had a six month old child from that relationship. Unfortunately Jane’s last Will was made eight years ago, just after the birth of her eldest child.

Jane’s legal position is complex. Her divorce and subsequent marriage means that her previous Will is of no effect (although this is probably an advantage in her instance). Jane will be regarded as having died “intestate” and the provisions of the Administration Act 1969 will apply. However, there are potential Property (Relationships) Act and Family Protection Act issues that may impact on the final distribution of Jane’s estate.

There is no guaranteed outcome here that is going to satisfy the various parties. The children from the first marriage and her child from her second relationship are most likely all going to feel resentful about what has occurred. This could affect them and the relationships with each other and their surviving parents for life.

Dealing with your Will can be a complex matter. That doesn’t mean that it is suitable to put aside these obligations particularly where you have children. By ignoring the need to properly create will instructions that make sense (and preferably are agreed with and understood by all those affected) you are simply passing the problems on to others in the event that you die.

If you have any questions regarding Wills or other estate matters, please contact our Estates Team for advice.

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