20-01-14

Where there's a Will there's a War
Tune in to BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Wednesday 22nd January 2014 to hear Clintons’ lawyer Andrew Kidd discuss the issues that can arise from sibling rivalries over wills and inheritances
 
Ahead of his appearance on BBC Radio 4’s “Bringing Up Britain – Sibling Rivalry”, Clintons’ wills and probate lawyer Andrew Kidd looks at the issues that can arise from sibling rivalries over wills and inheritances.  On the show, Mariella Frostrup and guests explore sibling rivalry – from Cain and Abel to today – how parents should deal with it and whether it can be ended.
 
Below are some of the issues Andrew will be raising.     
 
When a parent dies, sibling rivalries and feuds can be suddenly exposed.  These feelings may have been stored up over a number of years, ready to boil over at this juncture.  However the parent decides to divide the estate, the children can take this as their final “rating” as to how the parent felt about them relative to their sibling.  It may be without justification, but that is how it can be interpreted – because it represents the parent's final wishes.
 
While the parent is alive and healthy, and feelings may often be just about under control, the “referee” or “patriarch” parent is still on the scene, keeping a lid on things.  But when the parent is gone, the restraints are lifted and sometimes flashpoints explode into a family war, even over small sentimental items without monetary value.
Matters can be compounded as many parents want to acknowledge the contributions of a child who has perhaps acted as a “carer” in later life, but are reluctant at enshrining it in their will because it clashes with the notion that children should be provided for equally.  Furthermore, a will is not necessarily the place to play favourites.  Favouring or punishing one child —is a sure fire recipe for dispute among heirs, especially if such a plan is unexpected.  However, the temptation to “reward” one child over another can grow in later life. 
 
Clintons’ “Top 10 Tips” for avoiding dispute
 
1.          Don’t leave it to the children.  A recipe for problems is the parental attitude that "the kids can sort it out after I'm gone." Leaving things uncertain is an unnecessary burden on the children and can lead to legal battles.
 
2.          Don’t assume goodwill.  In planning their affairs, parents shouldn't assume goodwill between their children, or that equality in a will is always fair, or that a second spouse will protect and be generous to children from a first marriage.
 
3.          Face up to it.  We sometimes see a reluctance to consider succession planning – as if in some way it brings “the end” closer.  A failure to plan only aggravates problems.  A well-considered will, together with a letter of wishes, helps to ease tensions and reduce the risk of disputes. 
 
4.          Carefully consider business succession planning. If there is a closely-held business in which any of the children or their spouses or children are involved, consider whether or not appropriate legal documentation is in place in order for the business to continue effectively.
 
5.          Select the right executors and trustees. This is crucial if potential disputes are to be met with resolve. 
 
6.          Leave special instructions as to whether or not certain assets should be sold to avoid continued entanglements among family members.
 
7.          Avoid co-ownership through specific or directed gifts of particular assets.
 
8.          Procedural fall backs (such as determination by parties or mediation) should be specified in case the beneficiaries are unable to reach agreement on a particular point that will otherwise require application to the Court to resolve.
 
9.          Give treasured items away in person while you're alive. This will give your heirs a memory of your affection for them and you can also have the pleasure of handing over the heirloom.  There may also be tax benefits to this.
 
10.       Make photos or videos.  If you anticipate tension, leave explicit instructions in your will, perhaps accompanied by photos or a video. Your children will be hard-pressed to disagree if you explain in detail why you made the decisions you did. Gather your children for a house tour. Go room to room and allow each one of them to take turns having first pick on one item in each room and make a record to be stored with your will.
 
Andrew Kidd is a member of the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, a leading association comprised of lawyers experienced in the field of trust and probate disputes.  He can be contacted on 020 7395 8409 or akidd@clintons.co.uk to discuss any inheritance issues you may have.

 

Article by