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The Gardener, the House, the Will and the Mother - How do you protect your family's inheritance?

on Thursday, 04 June 2015.

Most people would agree they should have the right to decide who will inherit their assets when they die.

However, problems can arise if it is suspected that a person’s last Will does not necessarily reflect their true wishes. This is especially true when children are overlooked in favour of family ‘helpers’.

The following case study is based on a real life case that we were involved in recently. We have changed some of the facts in order to protect the identities of the parties involved.

A married couple had three adult children and several grandchildren. The family were very close and the natural presumption was that the children would inherit their parents’ estates.

However, the father became unwell and during his illness, the family’s gardener stepped up his tasks, so much so, that he started to care for the ageing father.

The mother also became very reliant upon the gardener’s support, to the extent that, on the day of her husband’s death, her main concern was to try and change her dead husband’s Will, to leave the gardener a substantial cash sum.

The mother’s strange behaviour continued. She paid for the gardener to go on an expensive holiday and gave him cash gifts and a variety of presents. She also believed the gardener’s promise that he would stay in her house after her death to maintain it. As a result of this conviction, she did change her Will.

Her children suspected she was suffering from the early onset of dementia, but when they broached their concerns, their mother became angry and distressed. Their relationship deteriorated to the point that she chose to spend Christmas with the gardener rather than with them.

When she died, sure enough, the mother left her entire estate to the gardener - the children and grandchildren were cut out altogether.

Within days of her death, the gardener had hired a skip and started to clear the property in order to sell it. The gardener’s promise to move into the house went out of the window as quickly as the mother’s belongings.

The children tried to challenge the Will but unfortunately, by the time they had received the right advice about what steps to take to protect their mother’s estate, it was too late and the gardener had started the administration process. He was successful in selling the mother’s house and pocketed the proceeds.

This is a sad story, which may sound fanciful and rare. However, at VWV we see this happen to families more often than is just.

There are vital steps that can be taken to challenge a Will and protect an estate shortly after death but timing is everything, as this story illustrates. Swift action is essential to give the best chance of success, as unscrupulous beneficiaries will often act quickly to maximise their chances of taking the assets for themselves.

We specialise in Will and trusts disputes and have been awarded top tier status in this complicated area of law by independent research. We also specialise in advising people who are considering making a Will or who may be concerned about capacity issues.

To discuss your estate and/or how any of these issues may affect your family, please contact Michelle Rose on 0117 314 5246.

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