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The importance of updating a Will after major life events

A recent claim on behalf of infant children for maintenance from their deceased father’s estate has highlighted the importance of keeping a Will up to date.

Malkiat Singh Ubbi died unexpectedly in February 2015 when he was in the process of getting a divorce from his wife. He had one disabled child and a stepdaughter.

He had been living simultaneously with Bianca Corrado, and had fathered two children who at the time of his death were aged three and six months.

Mr Ubbi was described in court as living a ‘double life’, running two households to a high standard of living. His estate was valued at £3.4m.

Ms Corrado originally sought a lump sum of £850,000 from Mr Ubbi’s estate under the Inheritance Act on behalf of her illegitimate children. They had not been provided for in his Will, which was dated August 2010.  At one point during the process the claim had been as high as £2.3m.

The court had to adjudicate on three significant areas of dispute between the parties: housing needs, childcare and private schooling. It eventually ruled that private education could not be included, and awarded Ms Corrado £386,000.

The judge found there was “no expectation that the children would have been educated privately” and did “not accept that the provision of private education is a reasonable financial provision for the children”.

Nazia Nawaz, a Senior Associate in the Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, said thousands of families could face the same issue. Divorce and remarriage had become increasingly common in society, yet Wills were rarely updated after big life events.

“It can be incredibly costly in the long run to let your Will languish with outdated information,” Nazia said. “In this case, the deceased led a double life and stayed married to his former wife while living with his mistress at the time of his death. It’s vital to consider the consequences of staying married to someone when the relationship has broken down irretrievably, particularly if you then have a second family.”

Nazia added: “It’s unusual to have infant children as claimants in an Inheritance Act dispute, but it was necessary here to provide for their future – particularly as the relationship between the two separate families was unfriendly at best.”

The judge recognised that there was little specified guidance for claims made by infant children, and so the case was likely to be used as future guidance for Inheritance Act claims involving children.

Nazia continued: “The judge noted that while the provisions used in family proceedings can be used for guidance, the question of ‘reasonable financial provision’ in such claims must ultimately be determined in accordance with the Inheritance Act. Mr Ubbi may have wanted his children to receive more from the estate had he set out a provision for them in his Will.

“This case also goes to show that whilst updating a Will may seem costly and time-consuming from the outset, the fallout of leaving heirs and second families unaccounted for is much worse. Will disputes can have a devastating effect on families and can massively exacerbate existing tensions.”

In evidence Mr Ubbi’s widow Susan said he had told her he did not intend to change the provisions in his Will, and his estate would be left to her so that she could provide for their son. She also said the couple had reconciled before his death and he had prevented her from divorcing him. But the judge did not accept that evidence.

Nazia said: “It is not commonly known that getting remarried can invalidate a previous Will, leaving potential heirs with no option other than to pursue a claim. We strongly advise that a person’s Will is updated after every major life event, be that divorce, remarriage or death. That way the inevitable stress, cost and fallout from a Will dispute can be avoided.”

Published: 22 August 2018

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August 2018