Q: My father remarried late in life but did not make a new Will because his new wife and her children were financially independent, so my brother and I assumed that we remained his only beneficiaries. Now my father has died, and we have been told his wife is the main beneficiary of his estate, even though in the only Will he ever made he left everything to us. Contrary to what dad had planned, we, his own children, will only receive a small sum each. Is there anything we can do about it?
A: Unfortunately, what has happened to you is not uncommon. When your father remarried his old Will became void, as any Wills made prior to marriage are invalidated as a result of marriage. This means that your father died without a legally valid Will and so the rules of intestacy will apply to his estate.
Under the rules of intestacy his new wife gained the right to receive your father’s personal possessions, the first £270,000 of his estate, plus 50% of the remainder and you, his children, only have a right to what is left. So, whilst it may have been your father’s intention that you and your brother should inherit everything, because he died without a valid Will in place this was taken out of his control.
However, in England and Wales, certain individuals, such as the deceased’s children, can make a claim against an estate if they feel they have not been adequately provided for. The Court would determine if that claim has any merit, and, if that is the case, how much should be awarded. Your situation highlights the importance of making a Will and keeping it updated as circumstances change, as disputing a Will after someone has died can be a lengthy and costly process. In your case, getting some sound legal advice will be almost certainly worth the cost.
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