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Can any legal MNers help me regarding DH's will please?

(19 Posts)
SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 09:37:43

DH passed away & had written a Will.

In it he's left large cash sums to his elderly sisters. With the residue of the Estate being left to me. I and my SIL are Executors, although she has allowed me to do all the paperwork and has stood down, since she lives overseas.

I was a SAHM and DH very controlling, wouldn't put money into joint named accounts. Nearly all of it in his name only, ditto our family home in his name only. So all his accounts have been frozen and we're living off a small income from rental flats that we each had before we were married.

I have 2 teenage daughters who are going to need funding through university, help with deposits for flats, might want to learn to drive etc etc

Now I shall have to apply for probate and get our house put into my name, and generally sort everything out. BUT I'm feeling uncreasingly uncomfortable about giving away the rather large amount of savings that we had accrued, which DH had stashed in single named accounts, in view of the fact that i still have my 2 daughters to support, single-handedly now, for the forseeable future.

I'm therefore wondering about contesting the Will. All our assets have been accrued as a result of me supporting DH in his career, I gave up mine when pg with Dd1. So I feel that this is family money that he is wishing to give away, and therefore not really his to give away like this in the first place.

I have no idea whether I am morally right and wondered if anyone has come across this before. I am wondering whether it will be worth the expense (and aggravation) of taking this further.

Any ideas/advice appreciated as I am in a quandary. I don't want to feel I've let my DDs down if I haven't explored the options first. It is a very large sum of money that he is bequesting to each sister.

Thank you, and sorry it's so long.

Littlemisstax Mon 11-Nov-13 09:43:02

Sorry for your loss.

I'd suggest speaking to a solicitor as you should be able to challenge the Will on behalf of your daughters (if they're under 18, otherwise they can do it themselves) on the grounds that he was supporting them financially but hasn't made reasonable provision for them.

Littlemisstax Mon 11-Nov-13 09:45:26

Another thought - how old is the Will? If it predates your marriage it's probably invalid anyway.

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 09:48:38

Do you think so LittleMissTax ?

I wonder how much it will cost in legal fees and how difficult it would be? You see, to save money, I was going to sort out the probate etc myself. I don't mind spending some savings though if it means we get the right outcome for the DDs though.

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 09:53:09

The will is only about 2 years old, after DH found out he was terminally ill. He didn't tell me he'd done it though until i confronted him last year, saying we needed to sort our finances out and wills etc because of the situation we were in. Then he told me 'oh don't worry, you will be alright, i've done one!

I was speechless. He said he didn't want to tell me as he knew i wouldn't be happy about it (what he was deciding to give away i suppose) and i said i thought we would have done our wills together, especially bearing in mind we have 2 dependent daughters.

titchy Mon 11-Nov-13 09:54:06

You need expert advice, but morally you are quite right to contest it IMO as he should have made provision to provide for his dependents until they finish compulsory education (not university or flat deposits though), and includes you, at least for a while.

How well do you get on with his sisters? Is it possible they might agree to vary the will so your dds are provided for?

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 10:04:18

One sister is lovely, has been a rock since DH passed away (although she's overseas).

The other sister is truly awful, even Overseas SIL is struggling to maintain a relationship with her.

So I haven't yet broached the subject with O/seas SIL (who's joint executor, albeit temporarily stood-down). And certainly can't speak to the other sister.

The only other thing my friend suggested was to broach it with nice SIL and suggest maybe that both SILs might consider putting their lump sums into a Trust for the DDs to have when they reach a certiain age, perhaps.

ElizabethJonesMartin Mon 11-Nov-13 10:28:42

Do you know the proportions? For example if the sum to the sisters is huge compared to what you and the daughters get then he may not have made suitable provision for dependants and I think there is an act about provision for family and dependants act which says you cannot cut someone out who is dependent (although he hasn't cut them out he has made provision, just not as much as you and your daughters think is right).

I think asking for an initial interview with or calling a solicitor for a quick chat who specialises in contentious probate might be a good idea.
You can vary wills if everyone agrees. They did this with Princess Diana's after her death, but not if the sisters won't agree.

The sooner you take some advice the better. I suspect the will itself will be valid. He knew what he was doing. It was not faked and he made provision albeit not much for his family. You get the house. You get both rental flats. He was not mentally ill when he made it or with a gun to his head. So your best route would be the Act I mentioned and a solicitor can advise on that. it seems to cover if you have not been left as much as you need:

www.hughjames.com/services/services_to_individuals/contested_wills,trustsestates/inheritance_act_claims.aspx

Agree wi elizabethjonesartin.

You need specialist advice from a specialist probate solicitor.

Don't try to save money by doing it yourself, you could end up much worse off.

You still have two flats and a family home. Presumably all paid for. If the sisters are getting all the cash could you offer one of them full or part share of a flat in exchange then they get a long term asset with income, and you get the cash injection you need.

Or you could sell a flat/downsize.

There may also be an arrangement where the solicitor will not take their fees until probate is settled, ie won't need payment up front.

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 10:58:21

Thank you for your comments.

I think that DH had squirrelled away quite a bit of money, as we have lived frugally during our time together (17 years married), so perhaps, once i've added up all his investments, the amounts stipulated to go to his sisters aren't so unreasonable.

I think it's the fact that he had the nerve to decide to give away large sums of 'our' cash, that rankles. And maybe for my own mental health, I should just 'let it go'?

And move on. <<hmm, decisions>>

mumblechum1 Mon 11-Nov-13 11:10:25

I agree that you should take advice from a solicitor who specialises in contentious probate. This is a very specialised area of law and one where there have been rather a lot of recent cases which have resulted in unexpected findings.

There are 5 grounds on which to contest a will:

Incorrect execution (not signed and witnessed properly)
Undue influence
Failure to make adequate provision for dependents
Lack of Capacity
Fraud

As others have said, you may possibly have a claim under failure to make adequate provision (the relevant statute is the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 as amended, but that obviously depends on the figures involved.

It is worth paying for half an hour's advice if you can't get a freebie imo.

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 11:19:08

Thanks mumblechum1

I had initially seen a solicitor who has agreed to sign my forms as and when I need a legal signature, but other than that he was going to stay in the background and let me get on with applying for Probate.

But at that point, t'was a few months ago, I wasn't thinking about contesting the Will. I'm not sure really, I suppose I ought to bite the bullet & pay for a specialist solicitor, but the reason I held off was because I wanted to preserve as much of the Estate as possible as I'm not old and we need our cash to live off!

I know I really must get this sorted out though, coz all DH's old accounts have been frozen and now aren't earning any interest. (Not that I can access them of course!)

mumblechum1 Mon 11-Nov-13 11:20:21

I think you have to mentally offset the cost of half an hours advice (£100 ish) against how many thousands are at stake tbh.

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 11:21:42

Just to add, I don't think he thought about our DDs at all, coz he hadn't considered the possibility of me dying or us both dying together. He hadn't nominated guardians for the dds. sad

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 11:24:07

Yes you're right mumblechum1

It's not easy to think straight when you're totally on your own and responsible for other people's lives (the DDs)

mumblechum1 Mon 11-Nov-13 11:40:25

Have PMd you smile

SteamboatSprings Mon 11-Nov-13 12:40:00

flowers to you all for your help.

LifeTooShort Tue 12-Nov-13 14:03:30

I am sorry for your loss.

Please, please, please speak to a solicitor. He had a responsibility to make proper arrangements for his children (even if not for you) and you should be entitled to your fair share of the matrimonial assets in much the same way as you would have been in a divorce.

I understand what you are saying about your mental health but if you are strong enough you should do it if only for your DDs. It may be that the solicitor advises that you do not have to act straight away and could put a final decision on hold for a couple of months.

Best of luck. It is a complex area of law so you shouldn't try to deal with it alone.

poshfrock Mon 18-Nov-13 11:25:27

You can certainly make a claim for insufficient provision if you can show that to be the case. You need to add up the total value of the estate including the house, cash, investments, shareholdings, rental properties, chattels etc and then work out what proportion the value of the legacies to the sisters comprises. If you and your daughters are still getting over 75% then I would suggest that you might struggle to bring a case. But you need legal advice from a contentious probate specialist. PM me if you want recommendations for a couple.

You have 6 months from the grant of probate to bring a claim and 2 years from the date of death to vary the will, if the sisters agree . But there's no reason why they should if they think you have been sufficiently provided for. Is there a life insurance policy or pension / death in service benefit? These often pay out directly to the nominated beneficiaries and do not for more part of the deceased's estate so you may be better off than you think.

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