Lack of Will Leads to Family Dispute in Court
When a man's first wife died, he inherited her share of the property they had owned jointly. At the time, he was living with his third wife, and the couple remained together for a further 28 years until his death in 1990.
He died without making a will and without taking any steps to transfer the legal interest in the property into his and his wife's joint names.
Circumstances like this are ripe for a dispute to arise, and in this case the family ended up fighting it out in court.
The man's widow claimed that the house should belong to her. If not, she believed various other claims against his estate were appropriate. If none of those claims were valid, however, she argued that she would have a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which exists to provide for those who are financially dependent on someone who dies without making sufficient provision for them in their will. Under the laws of intestacy, a widow was at that time entitled to a statutory legacy of £75,000 plus a half interest in the balance of the estate.
The outcome was a judgment that ran to 84 paragraphs, in which the High Court ruled that there was a claim to consider regarding financial dependence, but rejected the other claims.
The essential point to make is that the whole of the expensive court proceedings could have been avoided had a valid will been in place when the man died. Even if your affairs are simple and your assets limited, making a will is a very sound decision. It makes the administration of your estate easier and provides clarity over how you would like your assets distributed: the outcome if the intestacy laws apply may be very different from what you wish.