Bob, 60, had advised his family he had made a Will and that he had given the family home to his children from his first marriage. Bob had married his second wife Maureen 12 months previously. His daughter Rebecca, 35, who had epilepsy, was living with them. Although able to work, Rebecca was still largely dependent on Bob for accommodation, care and support.
Bob fell off a ladder while cleaning the gutters on his home, severely hitting his head. Later that week he passed away in hospital, never having regained consciousness. On checking with local solicitors and banking institutions, no record of Bob’s Will could be found.
This caused great disruption to family relations as to what Bob’s wishes were regarding the family home. Maureen felt as his wife, that she should receive the home, as she needed somewhere to live. The children felt their ancestry entitled them to the home. Furthermore, their father had told them it would pass to them. Extra complications arose when, after Bob’s passing, Maureen requested Rebecca leave the home, as she did not want to be responsible for Rebecca with her medical condition.
The children entered into protracted and expensive legal action against Maureen who, under the rules of intestacy (dying without a legal Will) was legally entitled to the majority of Bob’s estate. The matter was settled out of court but this has caused great animosity and disruption to family relations between Bob’s loved ones, not to mention huge legal bills. The rifts will probably never heal. And the worst outcome is that Rebecca has been forced out of her family home to face an uncertain future.
The topic of Wills and future planning can be confronting and overwhelming. However, this scenario could easily have been prevented if Bob had created a clear and concise Will setting out his wishes as to the distribution of his assets. After a Will has been made it should be lodged with your solicitor or Bank to ensure its safety and security. A family member or loved one should be advised where your will and other legal documents are held.
It is important to note that a Will can be challenged under the Succession Act by a member of the immediate family but at least a Will clearly sets out to the family the deceased’s last wishes and can create a better level of understanding among the grieving family. So many family misunderstandings and misinterpretations can be avoided if proper future plans are put into place.