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20 July 2016

An interesting Court case has hit the headlines recently continuing the trend for high profile contested Wills and probate cases causing a media stir.

A widow (Mrs Vindis) of a very wealthy English businessman (Mr Vindis) is challenging his Will, from which she is likely to receive £36,000 (the Will did in fact leave £1m to the widow, but much of that value was tied up in properties that were owned jointly by her, so the next gain will be approximately £36,000).

Mr Vindis' wealth came from the Vindis Group of car dealerships. He died aged 58 with an estate estimated to be worth approximately £12m. Two months before his death, Mrs Vindis issued divorce papers. As the couple were still married at the date of his death, the divorce papers and any financial order that the Courts may have made in the divorce proceedings, have no effect. This means that Mr Vindis' Will takes priority.

The couple had been together for almost 40 years and although the Family Court position is that on divorce the starting point is equality, it is by no means certain that Mrs Vindis will receive anywhere near the £6m she is claiming. Mr Vindis had left the majority of his estate to his two children, aged 26 and 28. The estate is also facing a claim against it from Mr Vindis' sisters.

Mrs Vindis' claim is based on the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. Often called the Inheritance Act, this is not new law by any stretch of the imagination but allows certain categories of people (spouses and children being two of these) to claim "reasonable financial provision" from a deceased's estate.

The Court proceedings have been adjourned and so it will be a case of watch this space for legal commentators. If the matter does reach full trial and does not settle out of Court, it will be one of the largest estates a Court has had to decide on using the Inheritance Act and we will bring you the result and explain the consequences.

How Oratto can help you

The size of the estate in this matter is extraordinary but whatever the value, more and more Wills are being disputed and estates challenged. If you are a disappointed beneficiary or an executor facing a claim from a disappointed beneficiary, please get in touch with an Oratto member lawyer, Wills and probate specialist today.

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the Probate area.

20 July 2016

So far, 2016 has taken its toll in terms of celebrity deaths, more recently the sudden death of music superstar Prince that has hit the headlines.

Whilst Prince fans are devastated, what has animated lawyers is that (we believe) Prince did not leave a Will. Many might find this surprising, given his estimated $300m net worth but at the moment it seems that his estate will pass to his sister and his half siblings, who would then have to deal with the estate, the Prince brand, record label and unreleased songs.

Nobody yet knows whether this is what Prince intended or what he wanted. What is known is that his sister has already issued proceedings in the Probate Court. This is not a challenge to his estate but is to appoint a special administrator to deal with the estate, which would also mean a Probate Court Judge looking at any claim brought to dispute the estate or if a Will does appear. This could mean that Prince's estate is tied up in Court proceedings for years to come.

What does this mean for you?

In England, if a person dies without a Will (intestate) the law decides, based on a fixed order of priority - who gets what. This is not always what families intend, especially where the rights of any unmarried partner who would be ignored, as would any gifts that the deceased wanted to make to people outside of his family, for example friends or charities. The law also does not cater for the circumstances in which an intestate person has not had contact with their family for many, many years and so may not want to leave their estate to blood relatives.

The possibility of Court proceedings to challenge a Will or an estate if there is no Will can never be totally excluded and challenges to Wills and estates are on the increase, so to make sure that as far as possible, what you want happens, Will advice is essential.

To get in contact with a member solicitor from our Will writing team, please try one of the contact options listed on this page. Furthermore, if you have not benefited from an estate in the way which you feel you should have done, please select a lawyer who can assist with contentious probate matters. 

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the Probate area.


20 July 2016

The recent news that an estranged daughter who had had no contact with her mother for 26 years is entitled to a third of her mother's estate, even though her mother had totally disinherited her from her Will, has raised the question of whether it's worth writing a Will if your wishes are to be ignored by the Courts.


Mrs Jackson, who died in 2004, left an estate worth £486,000 to three chosen charities. She completely excluded her only child, Mrs Ilott, so she inherited nothing. Mrs Ilott took the case to Court and in 2011 she was awarded £50,000 under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975. Mrs Ilott then appealed this decision on the basis that she was entitled to more money. The Court of Appeal decided that she was right and awarded Mrs Ilott £163,000.


The Inheritance Act 1975 allows several different classes of people, in this case a child, to make a claim against a deceased person's estate if they have not received reasonable financial provision. Even if the child has been estranged from their parents for a long period of time and lived independently of their parents, they can still make a claim under the Act. In this case the Court considered the size of the estate, the resources and needs of the charities and the needs and resources of the child.


So, this raises the question for many about why it's worth writing a Will in the first place. Although in England you are free to leave your assets to whoever you want, sometimes, as in this case, those wishes can be challenged. Taking proper legal advice at an early stage will ensure that as far as possible your wishes are carried out. Our member lawyers can advise you on all of your options so that you are fully informed about how best to proceed in any situation, whether you are giving instructions for a Will or looking to challenge the provisions of a Will.

Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with an adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.

Click here to return to the Probate area.

19 July 2016

Sadly, it’s very much a fact of modern life that many relationships experience difficulties and a substantial number fail.


According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics more than 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce, with half of these divorces occurring during the first decade of marriage.


Against that backdrop, it’s not surprising that there are many couples whose partnerships might have been filled with romance at the start but have left only regret, reflection and even recrimination.


Proof of this pattern has recently been affirmed by an article in the Daily Telegraph, written by a woman who was able to reflect on a first, unsuccessful marriage (something which she summarised as a "starter" marriage) after finding happiness at the second time of asking.


It seems to me that what she describes is something of a clash between the more traditional or, dare I say it, the more romantic view of marriage and modern life.


Those in the first camp consider marriage in more idealistic terms and wed, when still relatively young. For them, marriage is - or certainly should be - for keeps and, quite often, their first serious relationship appears to be with “The One”.


The second group, though, regard marriage in more practical terms. Just like many other form of partnership or deal, they understand that the contract needs some kind of insurance. They know that relationships can fail either before or after exchanging vows and so are more willing to put a prenuptial agreement in place, just in case.


Increasingly, that kind of real world view is adopted by those who might have initially entered into marriage with optimistic eyes. If such relationships collapse, the complications caused by eschewing a pre-nup can have a lasting effect which, whilst not completely dulling their quest for lasting happiness, makes them unwilling to go through such an ordeal again. That is especially true if they have had the opportunity to progress in their careers and have more assets to protect as they grow older.


Of course, as recent figures illustrate, it's not only young divorcees who have that moment of clarity. The so-called “silver splitters”, who might have been in quite long marriages, appreciate the value of marital contracts in preventing the loss of assets earmarked for their retirement - and, possibly, their families' futures - in another divorce.


For them, another marriage becomes a triumph of practical hope over potentially painful experience, whereas their younger counterparts frequently see wisdom overcome youthful innocence.


To update the lyrics of an old song, love might be lovelier “the second time around” but it is far more sensible these days with a pre-nuptial agreement.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.


Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

19 July 2016

It is sometimes said that divorces take too long to conclude. That opinion has been fuelled by a succession of high-profile splits involving many court hearings across a number of years before settlement is achieved.


Of course, there are occasions when it is impractical for couples whose marriages are effectively at an end to bring them legally to a close. For example, the last recession meant that a considerable number of spouses remained in the marital home, living more or less separate lives under the same roof.


At that time, job insecurity, depressed house values and a shortage of cash meant that they felt unable to go their own way. There are, though, circumstances when formally dissolving a relationship over a relatively long period of time can actually be a good thing. Take the actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin as an example.


A year ago, they famously announced that they were “consciously uncoupling” because their 11-year marriage had run out of steam. In the months since, they have regularly seen each other, spent time with their two children together and are reported to have been dating other people too. This week, it was revealed that they have now divorced.


I don’t think that I’m alone in thinking that although the amicable process might have prompted a lot of questions amongst entertainment media, it probably answered quite a few questions of the couple’s own about the nature of their relationship and their prospects.


Many husbands and wives find the realisation – whether sudden or gradual - that their marriage is failing to be difficult to take, generating very real and very raw emotions. Occasionally, those feelings lead to combustible situations which can be extremely hurtful for the adults involved and their families too.


Removing oneself from the potential for conflict provides the time to think more calmly about the future – something which is especially important if the marriage has been a long one – rather than the stressful ‘here and now’.


It might seem like a mere platitude but time can really be a healer in such a scenario. While distance and reflection might not reverse the decline of a partnership, it makes it possible to handle the necessary administration without anywhere near as much rancour. For those living with the fall-out of divorce, reasoned discussion is always better than dispute.


Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.


Click here to return to the main divorce and family law area.

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