In this article I am going to share 3 stories of real estate planning clients. We are sharing these stories to help educate about the need for effective estate planning but for client confidentiality, I have anonymised any names. These cases are unfortunate and I’m sure that after reading them, you will feel for the loved ones involved.
- Sideways disinheritance
Figures indicate that over 42% of marriages end in divorce. It’s a harrowing statistic and we recognise that lots of people go on to remarry when they find happiness. This does present some challenges when we thing about estate planning and this is demonstrated by a client (Mrs Smith)
In this case, we need to go back 30 years ago. Mrs Smith was 25 and was married to her first husband. They over the course of their marriage they had two children together and were happy. Fast forward to the present day, Mrs Smith’s children are grown up, she divorced her first husband and has remarried.
Her new Husband (Mr Smith) has two children himself from a previous marriage but is 10 years younger than she is. The have no children together.
Both came to me to write their Wills (Mirror Wills) and despite advice that they should each protect their respective share for their children, they decided on simple mirror Wills leaving everything to each other. Both explained that should something happen they trusted each other to look after the other’s children.
Needless to say things can change. Sadly Mrs Smith passed away and Mr Smith came back to us shortly after wanting two write a new Will leaving everything to his two children. This means that Mrs Smith’s children from her first marriage have been disinherited and stand to get nothing. This is NOT what Mrs Smith wanted and demonstrates the danger of acting against advice of your estate planner.
- Lost Will
Another unfortunate case here, I’m afraid. All of my clients are given the opportunity to have their Wills stored safely by SLS Wills and More but its not required. It’s a choice. This story merely serves as a lesson that wherever you choose to store, it needs to be secure and safe. In this case Mr Francis was a single man nearing the end of his life. Whilst he was single, he did have two adult children, only one of which he had anything to do with. One of them essentially disowned him following a fight years ago with very little communication between them.
When Mr Francis wrote his Will he made the express wish that his estate only pass to the child he was still in contact with and he also, on our advice wrote a letter of wishes explaining why he was excluding one of his children. Because Mr Francis was nearing the end of his life he decided not to store his Will with us. He anticipated that it would be needed in the not-to-distant future so opted to keep his Will at home. Sadly Mr Francis did pass away but unfortunately his Will couldn’t be found. As such his estate passed under the laws of intestacy meaning that his two children both inherited equally against the wishes he expressed to us. This further meant that the child expecting to inherit had to share their inheritance with their sibling. This case has become contentious sadly because Mr Francis opted against safe storage.
- No LPA
This case isn’t a recent case but perfectly demonstrates what we mean when we talk about estate planning. When we speak with clients, we will explore all aspects of their circumstances to be able to provide a comprehensive and robust estate plan. We hope that these documents won’t be needed for a long time, but we do achieve peace of mind in knowing that they are in place.
In the case of Mr and Mrs Brown a few years ago, they spoke with me about getting their Wills in place. The circumstances surrounding Mr and Mrs Brown were that Mr Brown went out to work whilst Mrs Brown raised their children. Mr Brown’s salary was paid into his bank account and he used to transfer money into a joint account to cover household expenses. He also used to provide his wife with an allowance to make her own purchases.
Mr Brown, as I recall was a frugal gentleman and when presented with my suggestion that LPAs would be a suitable addition to his Will when considering estate planning, he told me he would think on it, and that, in the meantime I should proceed with the preparation of their Wills.
Whilst I revisited the topic, they had decided that for the time being they would refrain from writing their LPAs with me. Tragically, Mr Brown suffered an unexpected stroke about 8 months later which left him incapacitated. Mrs Brown contacted and asked whether we could create the LPA for her husband in light of recent events and explained that she had a number of bills to pay and needed access to her husband’s account. I explained that whilst unfortunate, we would not be able to create the LPA as her husband did not have the capacity to create an LPA. I further advised that she would have to make an application to the Court of Protection to obtain a deputyship order. I felt awful whilst explaining that this process was both costly and took time to obtain. Needless to say, she was distraught.
An LPA is similar to an insurance policy in that we hope we don’t need it but that if something happens and we’re unable to make decisions for ourself, our loved ones (people that we choose) will be able to make decisions in our best interest. This can cover our property, finance, health and welfare.
Unfortunately, these cases demonstrate circumstances that have arisen when clients have opted against professional advice. When this happens, we do ask clients to sign a statement to confirm that they are acting against our advice and understand the risks. If you have any questions about your estate planning and want to ensure that you avoid similar circumstances, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
SLS Wills and More’s Sara is STEP qualified and is an Associate Member of The Society of Will Writers. She will always provide advice in the best interests of clients and offers affordable solutions.