If you’ve had a couple of marriages, you might want to check your will

Posthumous fallouts don’t just sound unpleasant, but for those living through them, they can be heartbreaking to deal with, on top of losing a loved one.

If you read the news of Monty Python star Terry Jones’ recent passing, you might also have seen two of his children claim that his will did not leave them with “ample financial provisions. 

Bill and Sally, Jones’ oldest children from his first marriage, are contesting his will because they believe they have been unfairly left out and that the estate has been favourably left to Jones’ second wife, Anna Sonderstrom, instead.

This story follows a trail of other cases, such as the one brought to court by Julian Lennon, the son of the late John Lennon from his first marriage. Julian subsequently received about £20 million in settlement after most of John’s assets were left to his second wife, Yoko Ono. There was also the story of Bill and Melinda Gates, which we wrote about recently here.

But, you don’t need to be a descendant of a superstar or mega rich for this kind of heartbreak to affect you. From remarrying without sorting finances to marrying in later life we see cases like this all the time as children from previous marriages are left feeling out in the cold.

In fact, according to the High Court, cases concerning disputes against wills are on the rise. There were 192 cases in 2020, up 50% on the 128 two years previously. More worryingly, this trend looks to increase as a survey by Censuswide revealed around 50% of parents plan to treat children unequally in their wills.

While the law in England and Wales states you can do whatever you like with a will, there is a clause that protects family members in the event that they feel a will has not financially provided for them. This is the 1975 Inheritance Act, which allows spouses, both past and present, as well as any children or stepchildren, to contest a will and argue that it doesn’t give them a reasonable amount.

In cases where siblings feel a brother or sister has been unfairly left out, they can also opt for a deed of variation - which we have written about in more detail here. This is worth bearing in mind if you plan to leave someone out of your will and should always be carefully considered, not just because of the emotional heartache - but the law may also be on the injured party’s side.

If you’ve remarried or you’re thinking of remarrying, remember to keep conversations open with your family and your spouse - particularly if they have children too.

For further advice, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office

Email: l.dalgetty@downslaw.co.uk