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News

'Check settlements', couples told after divorce form error

Couples who divorced in the last 20 months have been advised to check their financial settlements after a glitch was found in an online government form.

Family law specialist Nicola Matheson-Durrant, who uncovered the problem, said not all couples would be affected, but it was important people checked.

The error in the Ministry of Justice's Form E, used in England and Wales, left debts out of its automated calculation.

The Ministry of Justice has launched an urgent investigation into the problem (Read more here).

Last Will and Testament

According to the Office for National Statistics there were 506,790 deaths in the UK in 2013. The death of a relative is always a difficult and distressing time but imagine how you would feel if you had been treated unfairly by being excluded his Last Will and Testament? Or you were concerned about the validity of the Will?

Whilst no amount of money can ever compensate you for the death of a loved one, in these circumstances you may have to make the difficult decision to contest the deceased’s Will.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable financial provision from the deceased’s estate if you are one of the following:

  • The deceased’s spouse or civil partner.
  • A former spouse or civil partner.
  • A cohabiting partner for at least two years just before the deceased’s death.
  • A child of the deceased including an adult child.
  • A child treated as a child of the deceased. This can sometimes include a foster child.
  • A person who was being wholly or partly maintained by the deceased just before the deceased’s death.

Obtaining legal advice

Whilst making a claim is perhaps the furthest thing from your mind when coming to terms with your loss, it is vital that you do not delay in obtaining legal advice. Strict time limits apply and normally such a claim must be brought to court within 6 months of the date of the grant of representation (a grant of probate if there is a will, a grant of letters of administration if not). You will have to prove that the deceased failed to make ‘reasonable financial’ provision for you. What is ‘reasonable’ depends upon a number of factors including your own personal circumstances.

Mental Capacity when making a will

We often hear from relatives of the deceased about their concerns that, at the time the will was made, the deceased did not have the mental capacity to make the will. This is a growing concern with the Alzheimer Society reporting that by 2015 there will be 850,000 people in the UK with dementia.

Questions are often raised as to whether the deceased understood the full extent of his assets or the effect of the will and in some cases he may even have suffering from delusions which led to a relative being alienated and left out of the will. However mental capacity is only one of the grounds upon which you can challenge the validity of the deceased’s will.

  • The will was not signed or witnessed in accordance with the legal requirements.
  • Someone unduly influenced the deceased into making the will.
  • The will is invalid for some other reason
  • The deceased promised you a share of his or her estate and relying upon that promise you acted to your detriment e.g. by performing services for the deceased.

Making a will

The making of a will is not only for older people to consider. In 2014, 78% of adults aged 30 – 39, 54% of adults aged 50 -59 and 15% of UK adults over 70 did not have a will, according to a survey by unbiased.co.uk.

If you die intestate (i.e. without a will) legal rules will decide in what order your assets with be shared out. This may not be what you want. So by making a will you can ensure that the assets you have worked hard for are divided in accordance with your wishes. It can also, with the right advice and guidance, help reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable.

Good legal advice

If you do not wish to include someone in your will you can prepare a letter of wishes to accompany your will explaining the reason for your decision. Good legal advice at the time of making a will is essential. Your Will is the most important document you will ever sign….we do not have a voice from beyond the grave.

Mitchells Solicitors understands the need to deal with these matters in a sensitive but professional manner. If you want advice about making a claim against an estate or challenging a will, Philip Chapman or Lorna Pratt will be happy to discuss this with you in more detail. If you have grounds for making a claim we may be able to act for you on a no win no fee basis.

Call Us on 0800 2461 012 to discuss your requirements for the making of a will and a Lasting Power of Attorney.