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Legal News | 2.11.17

Don’t have a nightmare this Halloween!

It may come as no surprise to you that, here at Wansbroughs, we recommend that you not only make a Will, but that you also keep it under regular review and consider altering it if your circumstances change. Don’t just take our word for it though, the recent case of Mr and Mrs Collins and the National Trust is a timely reminder of why not keeping your Will up to date can become an absolute nightmare!At the time of making their Wills in 1990, Mr and Mrs Collins were great supporters of a number of charities, including the National Trust and various opera houses. Under the terms of their Wills, on the survivor’s death, these and other charities were set to benefit from their not insignificant estates.

However, in 2005, the couple clashed with the National Trust regarding the charity’s plans to erect a large bird hide on the boundary between the Collins’ garden and a large country estate owned by the Trust. Mrs Collins even led protests against the development.

As Mr and Mrs Collins had no children, when Mrs Collins died suddenly in 2014, the couple’s jointly held property assets (a large property in Kensington and a home in the Cotswolds worth a combined total of £5.5 million) passed to Mr Collins. As a result, the assets that Mrs Collins had hoped would pass to charities including Opera Holland Park instead fell to be distributed in accordance with the terms of Mr Collins’ 1990 Will, the main beneficiary of which was the National Trust.

You may be thinking why didn’t Mr Collins simply change his Will either after the disagreement with the National Trust or following his wife’s death in 2014? Unfortunately, in the intervening period, Mr Collins has developed dementia so is, himself, unable to alter the terms of his Will to remove the National Trust. An application was made for a statutory will to be executed on Mr Collins’ behalf (this can be done where a person lacks capacity), but the National Trust as the beneficiary who would have been removed from the 1990 Will and therefore lost out on a legacy of £5.5 million, refused to agree to the statutory will application, so it failed.

Also, despite recent arguments that have been made by Mrs Collins’ executors, who feel that greater efforts should have been made to ensure that Mrs Collins’ estate was distributed in accordance with her wishes rather than in accordance with her husband’s Will, the High Court has ruled that the terms of Mr Collins’ 1990 Will must be followed.

It therefore appears that the National Trust will inherit a sum in the region of £5.5 million, entirely against Mr and Mrs Collins’ wishes.

So, to avoid giving anyone a scare this Halloween, why not have a chat with your usual contact at Wansbroughs to ensure that your Will is up to date and that your estate will pass in accordance with your wishes. Please contact your advisor at Wansbroughs on 01380 733300 or email wealth@wansbroughs.com


Posted By Our Wills, Tax, Trusts & Probate Team