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Wills skipping a generation

20 January 2014


Fans of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers will be familiar with the tangled lives of many of the characters and the subject of inheritance has cropped up for one family.

Peggy Woolley (formerly Archer), whose second husband Jack Woolley has recently passed away after a couple of years living in a care home with dementia, has been troubled by his demanding adopted daughter Hazel Woolley from an earlier marriage, pushing for her inheritance.

Peggy has however turned her attention to her own Will and made a surprise announcement to her family that her children, Jennifer and Lillian,  will not benefit from her estate because they are financially comfortable  while her less wealthy son Tony Archer from her first marriage won’t receive a share of her estate either, instead it will pass directly to his children Tom and Helen.

This is a dilemma which faces many individuals, especially as families are more fragmented now with half siblings, step siblings and many people have been married more than once. In Peggy’s case, it may be her doubts about Tony’s financial ability that may be behind her decision or perhaps inheritance tax but either or both of these could have been addressed in a way that might have retained more flexibility and perhaps could have caused less hurt to Tony’s fragile ego.

It is interesting to hear this story line being played out at the moment as it is an issue which affects so many clients. Peggy Woolley has made an interesting decision to announce her plans so there is less surprise after her own death, but it may not prevent the will being challenged. She is still grieving the loss of her husband and having to deal with his awful daughter’s greed may have pushed her into a decision she comes to regret. Will she have created unnecessary animosity between herself and Tony, and ultimately between Tony and his children? I would like to think Peggy was made fully aware of all the options open to her in making such a major decision.  Did she consider a trust which would enable her to change her mind as time passes and to benefit Tony should he need it? It will be fascinating to see what happens over the coming months.

Everyone should have a Will and of course they can choose to leave their estate to whomever they choose, but they should be aware that some decisions could mean their estate is challenged after their death. Making beneficiaries aware of difficult decisions may be the right thing to do, as long as you are happy to live with the consequences.

I hope anyone who has a similar dilemma to Peggy Woolley will take time and advice, and consider all the options before they make their Will.

This article is not intended to be a full summary of the law and advice should be sought on all issues.

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