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Family Fortunes

Family Fortunes - why clients should take care when considering whether to exclude family from their will.

A burger bar chef who was left a massive fortune of £5 million by a businessman who befriended him at his roadside snack bar has won a bitter inheritance fight with the dead man's sister.

The pair met 17 years earlier "when Mr Turner started to frequent Mr Jones' mobile catering unit site in Chertsey", London's High Court heard as they shared a mutual passion for guitars and classic cars.

In contrast, he labelled his estranged sister Linda Cano a "conniving b****", cutting her out of his will.

Lawyers for Mrs Cano, who lives in Spain, argued it could not be proved her brother had not destroyed his original will after changing his mind about who he wanted to inherit his fortune.

She asked the judge to nullify the 2013 will, which would have left her free to inherit under the laws of intestacy because no other will existed and she stood in line as next of kin.

Interestingly, the original will could not be found so judgment relied on copies of the original. This was the thrust of the sister’s argument who claimed that the original will might have been destroyed by the testator.

The businessman’s sister, knowing that the testator had divorced and that she would inherit under the intestacy rules, wanted the will to be annulled. If you want to know how the intestacy rules apply, click here to view our intestacy flowchart.

This case highlights the importance of not only being specific about who clients want to inherit but also who they might wish to exclude.

It is also worth noting that in this case it was clear that the sister was not a dependant, so the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 did not apply. The outcome would most likely have been very different if the person excluded had been a dependant of Mr Turner. However, this legislation is complex and outside the scope of this article.

What can be done to mitigate these risks?

All PCO wills now include provision for clients to exclude people they do not wish to inherit. By including a specific provision in the will, you can reduce the risk of a claimant arguing that they had been forgotten about or accidentally disinherited. Additionally, we keep records of all client instructions and copies of the wills we post to clients which, although unsigned, clearly demonstrate a testator’s intentions. The copies can be accessed by our clients via our online portal.

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