Inheritance Act Claims

On the 21 September 2016, The Times ran the following headline: 

“George Martin’s children embroiled in war of words over will”

Sir George Martin was the record producer who signed the Beatles.  The article contained details of the dispute that has arisen amongst his family over a portion of his Will.  

Sir George Martin had been married twice and had children from both marriages.  His children from his first marriage in 1948 are called Alexis and Gregory, and his children from his second marriage in 1966 are called Lucie and Giles.  It was reported that the estate is believed to value £325,000, shared between Alexis, his daughter from his first marriage, and other relatives including his three grandchildren and a niece.

The producer, who died at his home in March aged 90, left his oldest son Greg out of the will entirely. His decision to leave the majority of his estate to Judy Lockhart Smith, his widow, with whom he had two more children, Lucie and Giles, has infuriated his eldest daughter Alexis.

The Times article contained details of an alleged email exchange between the half-siblings.  One sister describing her share of the inheritance as “a pittance”.  “There were so many examples I could cite over the years both big and small, of how we were . . . treated as second class compared to you two and your kids,” she wrote in an email seen by the Daily Mail. “I know it is an uncomfortable thought for you to address but let us not beat about the bush here: the inequality is stark.

Whether this reported dispute will develop into legal proceedings remains to be seen.  

The children who feel that they have been treated unfairly could consider making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975, this type of claim is often referred to as an Inheritance Act claim.  Children of the deceased are within the category of people who have a right under the legislation to make a claim.  

Unfortunately, it is likely that disputes of this nature will increase.  Complicated family structures are increasingly common.  We live in a society where there are more and more families where one or more parent has remarried or started a new relationship.  Even if the parent doesn’t go on to have children with the new partner, that partner may already have children from an earlier relationship.  Whilst the parents are alive they can maintain harmony, but after they die there is no one to keep the peace.   

To avoid your family arguing about your assets after your death you should consider making a Will that clearly sets out what you want and the reasons for leaving just a small legacy or leaving someone out the Will completely.  However, if you have any concerns at all then it may be best to tackle those head on and speak to your family now.  

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