Posted on 13.6.18
Cutting a child out of a will might be the most dramatic way for a mother or father to vent their anger towards a wayward offspring.
But even if there’s a reconciliation , past disputes are continuing to rage from beyond the grave – because parents are forgetting to change their will back to its original form before they die.
Known as the backfire bequest, it means that children who have made up with their parents after an original fall out end up embarking on a lengthy and costly dispute, which eats into the estate.
Christine Thornley, head of the wills, trusts and probate team at Gorvins solicitors, who identified the phenomenon, says backfire bequests acquired their name because they end up coming back to hurt those a parent cares most about.
`Unfortunately I’m seeing it more and more. What typically happens is that a client will come to see me, absolutely determined to leave a son or daughter they’ve fallen out with. However as months or years go by, tempers dissipate and forgiveness sets in. Unfortunately, despite making up, the parent then forgets to write their child back into their will. So when they pass away, that child is left with nothing.’
Most settle before they reach court but even in the courts, the numbers of backfire bequests are on the rise, with the total of contentious probate claims in the High Court rising from 98 in 2012 to 164 in 2015.
High Court claims issued specifically under the Inheritance Act 1975 rose from 116 claims in 2015 to 158 in 2016.
The issue of backfire bequests is especially topical after recent episodes of Coronation Street in which Aiden Connor’s loved ones were left reeling when his will revealed that the depressed factory owner was leaving his business to manager Alya Nazir rather than his sister Carla. He had done this because the will was written months before, following a family feud.
However there are other reasons why children are disinherited. Some, such as rock star Sting, think their children should earn a living, rather than rely on an inheritance. The rock star said he would not be leaving his £180m fortune to his children stating ‘They have to work.’ Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson has also said she has no intention of leaving a substantial inheritance.
But for many parents, disinheritance may be the result of feeling their offspring have behaved recklessly or been financially irresponsible. They may disapprove of their partner or feel they won`t be sensible with the money adds Christine.
`The point is that relationships can be fluid. Circumstances change, people fall out and then they make up. And while for some lashing out through the contents of their will might feel like an act of justifiable retribution, the fact is that circumstances can change and parties make up. So for the parent who forgets to update their will, the fall out can be massive.`
That’s why, she went on, it’s so important to make sure you make alterations to your will if there are major changes in your life, including family fall outs, reconciling with relatives, meeting a new partner, acquiring step children/grandchildren, disapproving of children’s partners and children separating from spouses
‘Wills are emotional as well as pragmatic financial documents. And their ability to wreak havoc is enormous. They constitute the final wishes of the dead – and it is essential that the document does in fact reflect those wishes. This is only guaranteed if changes are made when circumstances do’
If you’re considering making a will, at Gorvins we have a highly experienced team of experts in all Wills and Dispute Matters. Call our team today on 0161 930 5151 or e-mail Christine.Thornley@gorvins.com