“I’ll leave it to the cats’ home!”

It’s a fact – you do have the right in law to leave your money to anyone you like – even the cats’ home – and I’m sure they would be very grateful. The problem comes when you don’t provide for certain categories of dependents who can argue they are entitled in law to receive some provision.

Private client lawyers are always advising their clients to think carefully before cutting off relatives who have upset them and who have stopped visiting.  The Court lists are full of cases where these dependents are seeking to, in effect, re-write the terms of a will after death because they can claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Families and Dependents) Act 1975

This act aims to allow the Court to look back at the deceased’s estate and balance against that the fair and reasonable provision for certain people who come within certain categories, such as spouse or civil partner. This can be where there is no will and the deceased died intestate, where the provision left for them is not enough or where they have been left out of the will entirely.

There is no substitute for proper legal advice firstly, in drafting your will and secondly, if you are dealing with the after effects of a devastating will provision.


Contact Adrian Boulter on 0208 363 4444






9 Reasons to make a Will

Radio 2 recently reported on research that found the majority of adults do not have a valid will in place. Given the relatively low cost of having one professionally prepared, there is no excuse and it can avoid a potential mess being left behind for your loved ones to clear up.

And if you still need convincing – read on……

 1.   You get to choose who benefits from your estate

  •  without a will, the intestacy rules apply and there is no provision for unmarried partners
  • if a couple die together and have no children, there is a presumption that the younger survived the elder, so everything goes to the younger’s relatives

 2.   It ensures your wishes are binding

  •  the executors dealing with your will are required to comply with certain rules

3.   You make sure the funeral arrangements you want are clear

  •  it is still important to make your next of kin aware of your wishes as the funeral may take place before your will is even found

 4.   Allows you to have a voice about your children

  •  you can appoint legal guardians
  • if you want someone to care for your children who would not usually be considered their next of kin then you can explain your reasons

5.   It can safeguard your business

  •  you ideally need to consider in advance tax points such as IHT (Inheritance Tax) relief
  • decide who to leave as the majority shareholder – although this would also need to be in accordance with any shareholders agreement

6.   It enables you to leave gifts to charity

  •  many charities rely heavily on bequests in wills
  • these gifts are free of IHT

7.   It enables you to make minor/specific bequests

  •  the intestacy rules simply split your estate into percentages
  • you may prefer to make individual gifts of personal items eg jewellery

 8.   It allows you to choose your own executors

  •  you can save money with less professional involvement if you appoint friends or relatives
  • you can avoid overburdening your next of kin (at a time when they will be very emotional) as there is a presumption they will deal with the estate if there is no will

9.   It enables you to take advantage of some tax planning

  •  getting professional advice on a will includes reviewing your IHT position and how it will get paid

 If you would like to make a will, please contact our James Blakemore on 01992 631461 or email him at james.blakemore@curwens.co.uk

Curwens LLP is your local firm of solicitors offering most areas of legal advice – based in Royston, Hoddesdon and Enfield.


“I’ll cut you off without a penny …!”

Sounds dramatic, I know, but it might have been said by the mother (Mrs. Jackson) to her only child (Heather) in the case of Ilott v Mitson when Heather ran away from home almost 40 years ago.  This case hit the headlines recently – “Your will can be ignored say judges” in The Daily Telegraph.  As ever, newspaper headlines only tell part of the story.

This is a sad tale of family life – children (especially teenagers) fall out with their parents all the time but generally reconcile. In this case, we are told that Heather ran away at the age of 17, married someone the mother didn’t approve of and, even after attempts at reconciliation over the years, there was no happy ending.  Mrs. Jackson didn’t have millions – the total estate was huge amount for most people – almost £500,000 – but she decided to disinherit Heather and leave it all to charity.  She had explained her reasons for her bequests in side letters  and she even went so far as to instruct her executors to fight any claim on her estate by Heather, which, in the end, they did.

Charities who benefit in this way are in a very difficult position – they are duty bound to honour the wishes of the deceased who was kind enough to want them to benefit but also they are fighting against a very unhappy family member – and having to pay the legal costs of that fight.

What is not clear from the sensationalist headlines is that this was first decided by a District Judge in a County Court in 2007 – he agreed with Heather’s case and allowed her claim in the sum of £50,000. It went on appeal up to the Court of Appeal first in 2011 and then again this year.

It is always open to family members and those who are financially dependent to challenge a will under the Inheritance Act (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 [my emphasis] if they feel they have not been properly provided for.  Here, the notable point is that the judges felt that although the Claimant was a grown woman who had made her own lifestyle choices, she was in difficult financial circumstances. They felt her mother should have made some provision for her in the will, particularly as there was no “link” with the charities involved.  I think many parents might think this an odd outcome and quite hard on the charities themselves.

Our advice to our clients remains that they should think carefully about their choices and if they decide to leave their estate to beneficiaries who are not as expected, full details should be set out in the notes and also in a side letter.  This judgement also shows us that if you want to leave significant sums to charities, there should be some lifetime link with them – perhaps support with a regular donation.

It is open to the charities to take this case to the Supreme Court for a final decision, so we will have to wait and see on that but for now, as ever, I would say you should always get professional advice on your will.


It’s never too late ……..

Who believes in the myth of the “Common Law Spouse” ?

You do ?

Well, in that case, this post, courtesy of my colleague, Vijaya Sumputh, Family Law Solicitor here at Curwens, will make interesting reading………(spread the word…)

“According to recent census data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of over-65 couples cohabiting outside marriage has doubled in the span of a decade. In 2011 only 9% of people in that age group had been divorced as opposed to 2001, where only 4.5% had experienced a divorce. Since then, cohabitation among older people has almost doubled. In 2001, only 1.6 % lived with a partner but that number had jumped to 2.8% by 2011 and has been increasing ever since.

A combination of other factors has been suggested for the rise in the ONS report such as:

1. Increased life expectancy and better health.
2. Divorce is no longer such a stigma as it was in the past, while now the increasing economic independence of women means more can afford to divorce.
3. As older people are living longer and enjoying better health, affairs and adultery are becoming more common among this age group, leading to marital splits.
4. To protect their children’s inheritance from previous marriages.

Over 6 million people are now living together, with millions of children between them. Those who chose to live together appear blissfully unaware of how it could all end – that they don’t have the same rights or tax advantages as married couples when a relationship breaks down, probably because of the myth of the “common law” husband or wife, which actually has no basis in law. If one partner is financially dependent on the other there is no legal relationship created, no automatic right to share in financial assets like property, income or pensions and no automatic right to a share on death either. Some people also believe that the length of time they have cohabited makes a difference, but that too, is an urban myth.

Sadly, there’s no law currently in place to protect cohabitants. The Law Commission and the Supreme Court have strongly recommended a law that would recognise and compensate for economic loss for cohabitants in a qualifying cohabitation relationship but the last two governments have refused to recognise the need to introduce a law protecting cohabitant rights.

While there are ways to protect yourself against any future relationship split such as a “Living Together Agreement” which will clarify who pays what and what would happen to contents and so on if the relationship comes to an end and a Declaration of Trust as to the ownership of a house. On death, a well drafted will should help too, particularly given the taxation disadvantages of cohabitation. All these solutions only tinker around the edges and while I would definitely recommend them all, none of these provides for cohabitation breakdown as comprehensively as a new tailor-made law that is fit for the purpose of our modern society.

We can only hope (but not hold our breath) that our new government will have time to consider the requested recommendation during its term.”

Vijaya Sumputh

Why make a will ?

The saddest comment I hear from bereaved clients is that they have been searching the house top to bottom and phoning around to local solicitors, looking for the will of their loved one, at a time when the last thing they need is more stress and aggravation.  Even if the will says more or less what one would expect (such as “all to my wife”) it is so much easier for the family to have a simple will to follow and they must also know where to find the will.  I always recommend that when clients draft a will and name Executors, they firstly ask the Executors if they are happy to do the job (good move that !) and also either give them a copy or just tell them where the original will is stored.  Banks and solicitors will store the will and the charges for that do vary – most solicitors will store the will free.  Also, to help locate the will, “Certainty” is a service where you can register the details of where the will is stored so that a search of their database can be made after a death to identify who holds the will.  This is a very cost effective way of registering the details electronically to make it very easy to trace – http://www.certainty.co.uk. So, two top tips this time – make a will and make sure your loved ones know where to find it.