A recent article in The Daily Telegraph has clearly demonstrated how the distribution of a deceased’s estate can divide families.
The widow of Clive Zola Berger has successfully gained permission to pursue her case against the estate of her late husband. She wants ‘reasonable provision’ to be made for her. This is of course hard to quantify but the Executors of the estate should consider the wishes outlined by the deceased. In this case, it seems the deceased made his wishes clear, he wanted his wife to enjoy a maximised income and he did not want any arguments to arise from the administration of his estate. He was clearly aware of the problems that ‘can so often arise in probate’.
By putting in place what is clearly a sophisticated will and accurately outlining his wishes, he is likely to have thought that matters would be dealt with appropriately. His choice of Executors and Trustees however, could be where he went wrong. While the deceased’s sons are maximising the trust fund for the future, it appears they are not balancing their duties towards their stepmother with their duties for longer term protection of the funds. This is a key issue when a Will leaves someone this type of ‘life interest’ in a deceased’s estate. Acting as an Executor or Trustee brings onerous responsibilities and often the appointment of an independent professional avoids family disputes of this nature.
It appears as though it has been agreed by all parties that Mrs Berger’s requests have been ‘inflated’ but she has been described as having a ‘reasonable prospect of success’ so just as Mr Berger has claimed, we’ll be watching….
By Inheritance and Welfare Solicitor Ciara Hannawin.