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Recently at Emmersons Solicitors Wills and Probate Department, we have had a number of cases where distant relatives contact us having been informed by the authorities that their cousin, great aunt, etc has died. It is clear to me that huge numbers of people now live alone. Many of our clients, who instruct us to make a will, have no relatives that they see on a regular basis. This may be for a number of reasons; our client is an only child, never married and did not have children. Clients who are gay and whose families ostracised them because of this. Another common occurrence is men who have worked in the merchant navy all of their lives, they have never really settled in one place.
The one thing that all of these people have in common, when they visit us to make a will, is that they wish to be quite specific as to who will inherit their estate. For some that will be the person they live with, even if they are not married to that person. For the gay client who has been treated badly by their own family this is very important. It could be friends who regularly support our client, the person who has them over for Christmas lunch when everyone else is too busy. The friend that is there to help take them to hospital, or visit them in hospital.
I had a very dear friend and was storing documents at our office on their behalf. I rang them to point out that we didn’t seem to be storing a will. “No” they said, “I haven’t made one. My only sister has dementia, as you know I don’t have any other close relatives. I have a distant cousin but can’t stand him and I do not like the family that my sister has married into. If I leave my estate to my sister it is highly likely that upon her death her husband will inherit and thereafter his family. Instead I’d like to leave my estate to those people who come to my home every week and help me. They are very kind”.
Well, unexpectedly my friend died one week after this conversation. As he had predicted, his estate went to his sister because that was his next of kin. She died a few months later and everything passed to her husband. He died eighteen months after that and of course the much despised family members who my friend could not abide, inherited all of my friend’s money!
Or what about the case of a gay client who lived with his partner for a number of years. One night the partner was killed in a car crash. Our client was devastated. Before long his boyfriend’s family turned up from Scotland and said that he had to get out of the house. Of course the house was in his boyfriends sole name, the deceased had never told his family he was gay and the family refused to believe our client, they accused him of being a thief. These might seem like shocking or unusual tales to you. However, these are the sort of cases that we deal with every day at Emmersons Solicitors.
Making a will is an obvious answer. You might wish to leave small amounts of money to a kindly neighbour, you may wish to benefit your local church if it has offered you support, you may wish to leave it all to charity, you may wish to leave it to your partner whether or not you live together. The question is, do you want your estate to go to your next of kin? That could be a person you have never even met. It could be someone who lives nearby but who has not kept in touch.
If you don’t actually have any relatives still living then ultimately the government benefits from your life’s work and your life’s savings. Imagine your hard earned cash being used to build a roundabout!
If you would like a FREE REVIEW OF YOUR EXISTING WILL or simply wish to consider your options then contact us on:
Newcastle: 0191 284 6989
Sunderland: 0191 567 6667
Author: Jacqueline Emmerson