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Milligan Gravestone Dispute ‘Shows Importance Of Clear Will Instructions’

Legal Experts Consider Impact Of Such Family Feuds


The reported family feud which has emerged in relation to the late comedian Spike Milligan’s gravestone highlights how important it is for people to leave clear instructions in Wills about their funeral arrangements, according to an estate dispute expert at Irwin Mitchell.

Reports in the Mail on Sunday revealed that the comic’s gravestone – famously inscribed with ‘I told you I was ill’ – was removed from St Thomas’s Church in Winchelsea, East Sussex last year so his third wife Shelagh could be buried in the same area.

However, the stone is yet to be returned due to an apparent dispute related to Shelagh’s family wanting her details to be added to it. James Milligan, the comedian’s son from an earlier relationship, has claimed the move would be against his father’s wishes.

Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team, who specialise in providing support to those who are concerned by the terms of a loved one’s will, said disputes of this kind among families were not at all uncommon.

Louise Sykes, a Partner and expert in the area, said: “It is not unsurprising to see a dispute of this kind emerge, although they are often more likely to be related to what happens to the ashes or body of a loved one following their death.

“However, we would always encourage people to try and avoid this kind of issue in two ways. Firstly, people should outline fully their wishes for funeral arrangements and issues such as gravestone inscriptions in their Will, as this would make it clear to loved ones exactly how such issues should be dealt with.

“Secondly, after a Will has been prepared, we would also suggest that people then sit with friends and family to outline their wishes and why they have chosen to make such decisions.

“Not only would this give a person the chance to clearly state exactly how they want to approach such issues, but it will ensure that loved ones are left in no doubt on anything which could arise following their death.”

Louise added that the benefits of such action cannot be underestimated.

She added: “As this case shows, failing to consider these issues can lead to much heartache and frustration for families and friends who fall into disagreements.

“This is particularly pertinent in modern times when extended families are much more common due to people separating and then remarrying and having children to different partners.”