May 23, 2014

Passing on your assets to the next generation – not always as easy as it sounds

It is particularly important to make a will if you are not married or are not in a registered civil partnership because the law does not automatically recognise cohabitants (partners who live together) as having the same rights as husbands, wives and civil partners. As a result, even if you've lived together for many years, your cohabitant may be left with nothing if you have not made a will.

A will is also vital if you have children or dependants who may not be able to care for themselves since without a will there could be uncertainty about who will look after or provide for them if you die.

However, even if you do put preparations in place for dealing with your assets when you die, you may need to make changes for any number of reasons. It is important that your will is reviewed on a regular basis and that it reflects your wishes accurately.

Disputes surrounding wills may arise which challenge the contents of a will and require specialist legal advice to be taken. A recent news story has highlighted this complex issue and, unusually, it potentially affects wills of parents whilst they are still alive.

A farmer's daughter recently won the right to a share of her parents' farm. She had always been promised that she would inherit the farm, and had worked for little or nothing in return. However, after a family row, her parents attempted to evict her and changed their wills so that the farm no longer went to her but to a family trust for their three daughters. A court has decided that she has the right to more of an inheritance.

The courts originally heard the case earlier in the year and in the original hearing, the daughter said she worked without pay on her parents' farm until the age of 21. She told the court of times when she was left with the chores when her sisters went out, and was told she would be rewarded with the farm when the time came.

She left to work elsewhere, but her parents persuaded her to return, and while her pay fluctuated, she often received very little, and took home just £15 a day at some points. When she discussed this with her parents they said one day it would all be hers. However, after a row her parents started legal proceedings to evict her and changed their will so she would receive far less.

Although the decision was appealed, it was decided in favour of the daughter.

It is very sad when a family argues over inheritance. At Royds, we can advise clients on all aspects of wills, trusts and inheritance issues, from preparation to amendment. In matters where a dispute arises, our experts can provide sensitivity, privacy and clarity on the issues at stake. For more information, please visit or contact Tony Millson or Deanna Hurst.


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