Legal News | 6.02.20
Silence isn’t necessarily golden…it really is good to talk
In a world of blended families and increasingly complex relationships, it is not always easy to keep everyone happy. One key piece of advice we give to our clients is to talk to their families about the decisions they are making so that those family members understand what is being done and why. This is particularly relevant when clients are making a Will because while the reasons for a particular decision may seem obvious to the person making the Will, for those left behind, it is not always as clear and can be the cause of much distress and disharmony.
The recent case of Lina Jakimaviciute v HM Coroner for Westminster and Rasa Stanevience  has further highlighted the need to discuss things fully with all of your family to limit risk of a conflict arising after your death.
In this particular case, the deceased (D) moved to England from Lithuania in 1995 but returned to Lithuania on many occasions and kept a Lithuanian passport.
D made a Will in July 2017 within which she appointed her daughter Rasa to be the executrix of her estate. Under English law, as the appointed executrix, Rasa therefore became the person to whom D’s body would be released upon her death and who would be responsible for making the necessary funeral arrangements.
In September 2018, D died and as she was entitled to do, Rasa made arrangements for D to be buried in Lithuania. At this point, D’s other daughter Lina applied for and was granted an injunction preventing the coroner from releasing D’s body to Rasa (the appointed executrix and daughter). Lina sought the injunction on the basis that she believed her mother had wanted to be cremated and her ashes interred in the UK, not Lithuania. Lina also challenged the validity of the Will claiming that her mother lacked the necessary mental capacity at the time of making the Will.
The Court was asked to decide to whom D’s body should be released. The Court found that there was no good evidence to suggest that the Will should be challenged and therefore Rasa’s appointment as executrix remained effective. Also, the Court felt that there was plenty of evidence supporting D’s wish to be returned to Lithuania after her death and there was no good reason to go against D’s wishes. Further and more importantly, the key consideration was to dispose of the body decently and without delay, and therefore it was ordered that D’s body should be released to Rasa.
While this case is obviously an extreme example of the distress that can be caused when members of the same family have a different understanding of a testator’s wishes, it does underline the need to talk and to be clear with your family about your expectations and your reasons for making certain decisions. Keeping everyone informed should, at the very least, reduce the likelihood of any disagreements arising when you are no longer around to settle them.
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