Case Highlights Complexity Of Modern Life
Following Bernard Matthews’ death, the nature of his estate has shone a light on how Wills can play a vital role in modern times when family arrangements are increasingly complex, a Will dispute expert has revealed.
Reports have highlighted that the businessman, famed for his Norfolk-based turkey and meat firm which he owned 39 per cent of, left a personal estate of over £40.5 million.
A stake of 38 per cent of the company has been left to Frederick Elgerhuizen, Mr Matthews’ son with a woman he had a relationship with. The other one per cent was left to his former personal assistant Carolyn Claussen.
There has been much interest in the tycoon’s estate due to his complex personal life. He remained married to his widow, Joyce, despite them living apart for 35 years. Mr Matthews also had a long-term partner Odile Marteyn, who is set to inherit £1 million.
Discussing the case, Adam Draper, an Associate Solicitor and Will, estate and trust disputes expert at Irwin Mitchell, said that as Mr Matthew had a number of significant relationships there could potentially be a number of claims against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
He explained: “Under that legislation, there are a number of claims that could be brought if those involved were willing to do so. For instance, Mr Matthew’s wife would be eligible to bring a claim due to the fact they remained married throughout their separation.
“In addition, Mr Matthew’s long-term partner would also be able to bring a claim as they had lived together for over two years before his death, and there is the probability that he would have been maintaining her financially to some level.
“Finally, his son would able to claim, but considering the provisions he has been given under the current terms of the Will, his own case may not be seen as that strong in comparison to others.”
Adam outlined that Courts would take into account a range of issues when considering claims under the Act, including the moral obligations that the deceased had to a person and the financial and personal circumstances of those involved.
He added: “What this case ultimately highlights is how vital it can be for people, regardless of their personal wealth, to plan ahead and write a Will to ensure their wishes are carried out.
“Without this, and considering the complexity of his personal life, the loved ones and relatives of Mr Matthews may have faced a much more difficult situation in ensuring that the right people were given access to an inheritance.”