Real Life Stories
Writing Wills and making your wishes known is often left until later years. In these real-life examples, we demonstrate the importance of writing a Will as soon as you have any assets or children. If you don’t have any assets that you wish to pass on, or any heirs, a Will also ensures that your wishes are adhered to in the event of your death.
Our last example further demonstrates the consequence of not keeping your Will up to date, so ensure that you revisit it every time you experience any life-changes.
Wishes not Documented
Mrs S died in her mid-60s from cancer. She had been brought up in the care of nuns in Ireland until she came to England in her mid-teens to join her family. Whilst living in England she never attended church, nor did she support any religion.
Her family arranged a traditional Catholic service in church with the senior church dignitaries conducting the service. Throughout the service she was referred to as Sarah, a name she truly disliked, instead of Sally. She was then buried despite the fact that everyone close to her knew that she wanted to be cremated. Unfortunately, she never recorded anything in writing, the immediate family, who were all staunch Catholics, had sadly chosen what they wanted without considering her personal wishes.
A forgotten Will
Following a man’s divorce, his new girlfriend and her two children moved in with him in the house that he owned. After he died soon after, she and her children were evicted when the property passed to the man’s previous wife under the terms of a forgotten Will.
Had the woman died, guardianship of any children would have been decided by the courts which would have appointed a guardian for her children – this may not have been her partner.
Wills are negated by marriage but not by divorce!
No funds for funeral
Mr A died in a road traffic accident in his mid-40s leaving four daughters aged 16-24. He had made no provision for his funeral and the family did not have enough money to pay for it.
His daughters raised the money by spending evenings and weekends washing cars to pay for their father’s cremation.
Funeral plan restrictions and cost inflation
Mrs J was concerned about her funeral costs, so she took out an ‘Over 50s Funeral Plan’ prepared by an insurance company. The plan guaranteed payment on death after two years. Sadly, Mrs J died from a stroke after 20 months; the funeral plan paid nothing out.
Dr S bought also took out an ‘Over 50s Funeral Plan’ life insurance policy in his 60s. He was fortunate enough to have a long life until his death in his early 90s. Unfortunately, the death benefit from his ‘funeral plan’ paid out less than his total premiums paid as it had not matured over the years in line with inflation. His funeral had to be heavily financially subsidised, negating the objective of the plan and Dr S’s intentions to ease the financial burden on his loved ones.
Whilst most of us won't have estate of value similar to that of many celebrities, these examples are a poignant example of the complications that can arise as a result of not having a Will. All of the celebrity named here sadly passed away - intestate - in early life.
- When Jimi Hendrix died without a Will in 1970 all his assets passed to his father Al. When Al died in 2002 he left Jimi’s $51million estate to his adopted daughter, prompting a law suit by his biological son.*
- Rik Mayall, actor and comedian, died unexpectedly aged 56 in 2014. He left no Will which left his family with a huge tax bill on his £1.3m estate. The intestacy rules changed shortly after his death.*
- 'The artist formally known as Prince' died without leaving a Will, even though he had assets of between $100m - $300m. Although his official heirs were most certainly his six siblings, they were put under undue stress and delays due to their being nearly 30 claimants coming forward. None were able to establish a DNA or familial link!*
*The Telegraph 25 May 2016