An increase in the number of so called ‘blended families’ – following the remarriage of one or both parties – may be at least partly responsible for an increase in the number of contested Wills.
With a population that is living longer, second and third marriages, together with children from more than one relationship, are becoming more commonplace and so too are disputes over estates.
Recently the family of the late Paul Daniels have been at loggerheads following a dispute over his estate. Following the magician’s death earlier this year, his 56 year old son, Paul Junior, has spoken out publicly, accusing his stepmother, Debbie McGee, of failing to support him and his two brothers.
The celebrity’s son claims he has been left out of work following the closure of the magic and fancy dress shop in Wigan that he and his father had set up together.
Paul Junior commented: "She had told me I could keep the shop going, because my dad had always enjoyed keeping it alive. We opened it together. She told me she would look after me and help pay my rent and bills afterwards. But, like my inheritance, I’m yet to see a single penny.”
Paul Junior is the eldest of three children from Daniels’ first marriage to Jacqueline Skipworth.
So far, Debbie McGee has not issued a full rebuttal of her step-son’s accusations although her spokesperson has described the claims as “inaccurate”.
Lee McClellan, a Partner with Palmers and a specialist in contested Wills said: “If you are a potential claimant and you feel that a Will does not properly reflect the intended wishes of a loved one, it is critical that you seek immediate legal advice.
“Whilst not all challenges to a Will or against an estate have strict time limits, some claims must be brought within six months of the date on which the Grant of Representation issues and the Court can prevent any claim from proceeding if they consider there has been an unreasonable delay in pursuing the same.”
Lee added: “If you believe there is a chance that your Will is likely to be challenged after death, particularly if you have a large or extended family, employing a specialist firm of solicitors, rather than attempting a do-it-yourself Will, will also help to reduce the chances of a successful challenge by ensuring that there is professional evidence available regarding issues such as mental capacity, knowledge and approval, due execution etc.
“Advice can also be obtained on how rights of occupation and/or the use of trusts can help to balance the competing needs and claims of a spouse/partner and children from previous relationships.”
For more information about Palmers’ Wills, Probate and Estate Administration services including advice on contested Wills, please contact us.