IT’S difficult enough keeping any eye on your money while you’re living, but now it seems as though that will extend far into the afterlife!
The news that the Court of Appeal has overturned the specific requests inscribed in a will so that a daughter can inherit some of her mother’s estate has led to widespread astonishment.
This was not a muddled or confusing will or a mother who died intestate; this was a mother who wrote in her last will and testament that she did not want her daughter to receive a single penny. Instead, Melita Jackson wanted her £489,000 fortune to go to charity.
She also told her executors that any claim by her daughter should be fought strenuously, writing: “I made it clear to my daughter that she can expect no inheritance from me when I die.” Mrs Jackson’s husband had died in 1960 just before Heather was born.
The daughter Heather (now Ilott), who had left home and eloped at 17, now has five children between the ages of 18 and 31 and lives in a housing association property with her husband. The court of appeal awarded her a third of her mother’s estate, £163,000.
The three charities, The Blue Cross, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court.
There was no mention of the Inheritance Tax (IHT) implications, either; there’s an IHT reduction from 40% to 36% when you leave sums to charity.
Mrs Ilott’s lawyers has claimed that her mother’s will was “unreasonable, capricious and harsh” particularly as it left Mrs Ilott and her family in severe financial difficulties. Why a mother should be financially responsible for a daughter, aged 54, who had left home 37 years earlier, is rather bewildering?
When we are investing, whether in ISAs, property or pensions, we seek the expert specialist advice of an Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). When drawing up a will, it’s off to the solicitor who’s responsibility it is to make sure that YOUR money goes where you want it to go; or, often more crucially, making sure it doesn’t go to someone you don’t want it to!
Mrs Ilott was clear, yet the courts have gone against her wishes. The question that will be debated in the months and years to come is whether they have that right.
“This ruling is saying that while you can still disinherit your children, you are going to have to explain why and show connections with those you are leaving the money to,” claimed Gary Rycroft, a member of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee.
“It is also very important because it seems to be making it easier for adult children to claim for reasonable financial provision.”
While today’s parents are only too well aware that the age of parental responsibility has been rising unofficially as offspring return home after university to try and save for a home of their own, this ruling means many will have to revisit their will, if they have made one, to make sure their wishes and intentions are crystal clear!
It seems as if the legal profession want the intimate details of family squabbles and arguments documented in a will as justification of exclusion; it is anticipated there will be an increase in challenges to wills as estranged children attempt to claim from their parents’ estates.
This bizarre case does emphasise the need to be precise in your financial dealings, whether dead or alive. Parents are giving much more help to children during their lifetime than ever before.
Part of that is down to increased life expectancy and part of it reflects the difficulties youngsters face getting on the property ladder.
Not all parents want to cut their children out of the will; but likewise, parents do worry about making life too easy for future generations as many are now leaving £1m-plus-estates.
There are many examples of famous parents who have made it clear they will not be leaving their fortunes to their kids.
Sir Lenny Henry has said it is “right” for rich parents to cut their children out of inheritances so they can learn “to stick up for themselves.”
Nigella Lawson, the celebrity chef with two children, stated in 2008 that they can expect none of her fortune, while pop star Sting said recently that none of his six children will receive a chunk of his £180m legacy.
Another man with six kids is Dragon’s Den’s Duncan Ballantyne; he’s told his kids that his £187m will be going to charity, while Andrew Lloyd-Webber has publicly declared that his five children will have to learn to support themselves!
“It’s all about having a work ethic – I don’t believe inherited money at all. I am not in favour of children suddenly finding a lot of money coming their way because then they have no incentive to work.”
Will these celebrity kids take it lying down when the sad day occurs? Having enjoyed a privileged lifestyle growing-up, they can probably claim that it will cause real hardship if all those lavish trappings – private jets, Caribbean holidays and seven-star hotels – are suddenly taken away.
You can see the queue of lawyers beginning to form already!
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