After a year of high profile, and often unexpected, celebrity deaths, Rick Parfitt of Status Quo died on Christmas Eve 2016.
In the short time since his death, national media has reported that Rick’s wife apparently told newspapers that Rick changed his Will days before his death; excluding her from the Will. There have also been some allegations of Rick’s wife taking one of his custom made guitars ahead of his funeral. Newspapers reported that this almost caused a family upset, although his wife has explained it was due to a misunderstanding.
Family deaths are difficult enough without the added pressure of media attention and potential disputes arising so soon after a loved one has died. If indeed Rick’s wife has been excluded from his last Will, she has several potential avenues of causing upset by challenging the validity of the Will itself, perhaps by claiming; that it had been signed incorrectly; it was made at a time when Rick lacked the necessary mental capacity to be able to sign his Will; or, that he was potentially coerced or forced into signing his Will. However, there is no actual support for any of these allegations in the reported story.
A different likely claim would be for Rick’s wife to issue proceedings under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 which allows certain categories of people, including spouses, to claim reasonable financial provision from the deceased’s estate. As a spouse, Rick’s wife would have an automatic right to claim against his estate, although the strengths and weaknesses of her claim (should she choose to bring one) will not be known for some time. This is irrespective of the fact that Rick and his wife were reportedly separated at the date of his death.
Often, these high profile cases receive a lot of media attention and to demonstrate this the Supreme Court is due any day to release its judgment in the equally high profile case of Ilott v Mitson, where a mother excluded her only estranged daughter from inheriting anything under her estate, in favour of four different charities.
Sometimes complications and disputes after death are unavoidable, however, I would suggest visiting a solicitor and reviewing your Will and financial planning arrangements at regular intervals to ensure that your wishes, as far as possible, are put into effect.