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Wills And Trusts…When Celebs Get It Wrong

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Have you thought about what will happen after you have died?

Have you thought about who might live in your home or who might get the grandfather clock in the hallway? Have you then decided that thinking like that is morbid and pushed it to the back of your mind? That is not an unusual thing to think and many people leave it too late before they start to worry about the world after their death.

What does it matter if I don’t have a Will, I hear you say! As it happens, it matters greatly, as everybody’s circumstances are completely different to those of their family, their neighbours or their friends down the pub. You may own a home, have a business or have children from a previous marriage. You may not have very much at all, or you may have a lot, but one thing is certain – you know who YOU want to benefit on your death.

Upon death, a person will leave their assets and belongings (known as their Estate) either as per the terms of their Will or under the Rules of Intestacy. So what is the difference? A person is deemed to have died “Testate” if they have executed a valid Will on their death and they are deemed to have died “Intestate” if they have died without a Will or without a valid Will.

Celebrity Wills

You will be aware of the legendary Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. Of course, Freddie died far too early at the age of 45 from bronchial pneumonia due to AIDS-related complications in November 1991, after being diagnosed in 1987. The fact that Freddie was aware that he was unwell allowed him time to deal with his affairs and as such he signed his last Will and Testament in September 1991.

The terms of Freddie’s Will left a number of specific legacies such as his home at Garden Lodge in London to his close friend Mary Austin, pecuniary legacies which are cash gifts to specific people such as the sum of £500,000 to his partner Jim Hutton and the remainder of his Estate was left to Mary Austin (50%) his sister (25%) and his parents (25%). However, if Freddie had not signed a valid Will, his Estate would not have been divided in this way. Freddie was legally unmarried, despite being in a relationship with Jim and despite his claims that he viewed Mary as his “common-law wife”. Without a Will, the entirety of Freddie’s Estate would have gone to his parents which we know from how his Estate was distributed that this is not what he would have wanted!

The talented Amy Winehouse died sadly at the age of 27 in July 2011 from alcohol intoxication. Though troubled, it was not expected that Amy would die so young and this may be the reason why she did not leave a Will. Amy therefore died Intestate. She was in a relationship at the time of her death and she had an ex-husband both of whom many may expect would receive money from her Estate. However, in England in Wales, the Rules of Intestacy are governed by the Administration of Estates Act 1925 (as amended) and the clear order of inheritance if there is no spouse or children is that the living parents of a person who has died Intestate will inherit the entire Estate, which is exactly what happened in Amy Winehouse’s case. If Amy’s parents had not been alive, then her Estate would have passed to her older brother Alex or to his children had Alex predeceased Amy. The Rules of Intestacy follow the bloodline until there is no one left and the Estate then goes to the Crown.

Benjamin Franklin famously stated that “there are only two things in life that are certain: death and taxes”. Rather than dying Intestate or with a Will that is incomplete, which may result in a prolonged battle between your family members or friends, contact the Wills and Probate team at Wilson Browne Solicitors today. We will discuss your options with you and prepare your Will in accordance with your instructions, ensuring that your Will is valid and that what you want to happen with your Estate does happen, leaving you with security and peace of mind.

For help and advice or for a free Will health check, call us today

Kayleigh Brown

Posted:

Kayleigh Brown

Solicitor

Kayleigh qualified as a Solicitor in 2019 and works within the Private Client team at our office in Leicester. She has over 4 years of experience advising clients on Wills, LPAs, Probate, Estate Administration and a range of Tax and Trust issues.