THE death of 1970s pop star Gerry Rafferty in 2011 has led to a lengthy legal battle that proves the importance of making and maintaining a will, warns a Sheffield solicitor who is helping to support a city charity.
The musician who had a big hit with the record Baker Street made a will in 2007, in which his estate, including property in California and his musical royalties, was left to his daughter and granddaughter.
But the woman who subsequently became his fiancée, Italian designer Enzina Fuschina, launched a claim against his estate, which could see her recovering part of his £1.2 million fortune. It may sound more South Fork than Sheffield – but something similar could happen to any family if a will is not kept up to date, says Sheffield solicitor Martin Sissons.
Martin is a wills and probate expert with Simpson Sissons and Brooke, one of the 10 Sheffield law firms supporting the St Luke’s Hospice Will Month this April.
Instead of paying the solicitor, the customer makes a donation to St Luke’s where the suggested minimum donations are £55 for a single will, £95 for a joint will or £50 for a codicil, all significantly less than the usual charge. All the money goes direct to Sheffield’s only hospice. St Luke’s also make it easy for customers to leave legacies to the charity.
Martin said: “In the United Kingdom there is an assumption of testamentary freedom in that there are no laws forcing an estate to be passed in a certain way, usually to the next of kin,” Martin explained.
“It is important, however, that when writing a will a person considers the people who are financially dependent and whether provision should be made for them.
“The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 enables a spouse, partner, child or person who was financially dependent on the deceased to make a claim against the estate if, under the terms of the will or intestacy, they were not left reasonable financial provision.
“This Act would appear to contradict a person’s right to leave their estate to whosoever they choose but the existence of the legislation places a moral duty for the needs of dependents to be considered and protects those who are left in a difficult financial state, either through malice or human error.”
He added: “Failure to make provision for a dependant person can lead to a dispute over the estate and disputes at this time can easily become acrimonious as relationships are put under pressure.’’
There are many other reasons though why wills should be kept up to date – as Martin has experienced.
“My mum was recently contacted by a firm of genealogists who trace missing beneficiaries,” he explained.
“It turns out that she is entitled to a share of a deceased cousin’s estate under intestacy rules.
“One evening over dinner she joked that if anything happens to her before the intestacy issue is sorted out the money would come to me and my sister but I pointed out to her that this is not correct.
“My mum is married to my stepfather and they both have wills but she was under the impression that her intestacy windfall would stay in her family should she die before the estate is wound up which is obviously incorrect – it will pass under her will now.’’
To find out more about the St Luke’s Hospice Will Month visit www.stlukeshospice.org.uk. To contact Martin call 0114 241 3970 or to find out more about Simpson Sissons and Brooke, visit www.ssblaw.co.uk
Simpson Sissons and Brooke is one of 10 companies taking part in the St Luke’s Will Month along with Best Solicitors Walk in Centre, Coates Solicitors, Graysons with Watson Esam, hlw Keeble Hawson, Irwin Mitchell, PM Law, Rosalind Watchorn Solicitors, Russell Jones & Walker, part of Slater & Gordon Lawyers and Taylor & Emmet.