June 30, 2016

Rise in ‘silver divorces’ highlights importance of updating wills

New research has indicated that the explosion of people over the age of 60 who are divorcing is leading to more and more family rows.

Many people go on to remarry but fail to change their wills to take into account their new family – leading to all-too-common disputes.

The Office for National Statistics has revealed that the number of men over 60 who divorce each year went up by nearly 75 per cent in the 20 years to 2013, while in the same year nearly one in three marriages were of a couple where one person had been married before. It also said one in 10 people over the age of 65 is now a divorcee.

If a will does not effectively dispose of the estate, the rules of intestacy come into effect – these state the first £250,000 of the value of an estate must go to the widow or the widower.

The best way to avoid disputes in such a case, say between older children, a second spouse and those from the new family, is by keeping a will up-to-date and expressing your wishes clearly.

Avoiding litigation

Never has the need to express wishes in an exact way been more crucial than in a case highlighted in court this week. It involves an elderly brother and sister who have found themselves embroiled in a 12-year legal battle over their father’s fortune.

Ted Townsend left his £2million fortune to son and daughter, Edward Townsend, 67, and Fay Crabbe, 74 – to be split equally between the two parties.

But the legacy has been stuck in a ‘legal limbo’ after the duo clashed over a 2.5 acre tract in Dorchester on Thames, said to be worth £135,000, and over who would pay the late Mr Townsend’s £396,000 inheritance tax bill,

They both stand to benefit from his estate – which includes a house, a portfolio of shares worth £1.1m and a successful caravan and holiday park in Oxfordshire.

“This has been hanging over us for almost 12 years and it's still not been settled. It's a nightmare,” said son, Mr Edward Townsend.

“The reason I don't meet with my sister is because, on one occasion at Bridge Villa, she slapped my face and I vowed I'd never be put in that position again,” he told Judge John Martin QC in Court.

The case continues, with both parties determined to secure their fair share of their late father’s legacy.

For legal advice on drafting or updating a will please contact Tony Millson and Deanna Hurst in Royds’ Private Client team.

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