The storyline in this week’s episode of popular comedy drama ‘Cold Feet’ is likely to have resonated with anyone who has experienced or been involved in a family dispute over a Will or Estate following someone’s death.
The issues that arise out of non-existent or out-of-date personal Wills (an all too common ground for disputes in real life) is shown when on-screen ‘Barbara Blyth’ dies leaving her entire Estate to one daughter, cutting the other out completely.
An upset ‘Jenny Gifford’ is left clouded in resentment and hatred in the wake of her mother’s death purely because the Will was not altered when her mother’s life circumstances changed, which viewers see begins a negative reaction of family arguments, questioning intentions and examining relationships throughout the episode. Her circumstances lead Jenny to reflect on her plans for her own Will and ask during a conversation with husband Pete ‘I don’t think we’ve even got one [Will] have we?’, a question that, in our experience, is all too often put off until much later in life or not addressed at all.
In Cold Feet, the sisters are able, through a series of sometimes heated discussions, to agree on what they perceive to be a fair division of their mother’s Estate on terms that reflect the time and effort one sister has put into caring for their mother and the improvement in the relationship of the other with her mother since the Will was made.
However, similar circumstances in real life are all too often the catalyst for contentious and costly disputes over Estates and Trusts which can have lasting and irreparable damage to family relationships not so easily remedied without costly lawyer (and sometimes Court) intervention: a legacy which most of us would not want.
First and foremost, it highlights the importance of giving timely thought to making a Will. In 2019, approximately 70% of people who died in the UK did not have a Will, leaving their assets to the rules of intestacy and a big black hole of uncertainty for the prospective beneficiaries.
Secondly, as a team of lawyers specialising in dealing with disputes over Wills and Trusts, regular review of your arrangements on death is crucial to seeking to avoid family disputes post-death – reviews that we would recommend take place routinely (on an annual basis) but also upon the happening of any significant life events that result in a change of financial or personal circumstances.
All too often we see claims that might have been avoided or mitigated had a regular review been undertaken and documented in some way, had plans been discussed and property ownership and succession had been considered.
And whilst the use of digital tools and online resources can help with these considerations, we find that they are often no substitute for protecting your Estate by seeking proper professional advice.