The number of over 60’s divorcing rose by a third between 2003 and 2013. There were 15,275 divorces in 2011 compared to 13,554 the year before and 10,273 in the year 2000. The phenomenon of so called “silver splitters” is likely to lead to an increase in will disputes.
Sarah Young explains:-
“Will disputes very often happen when there has been a relationship breakdown in a family. When an older divorced parent remarries or lives with someone new, their adult children can become concerned about their parent’s finances and about where they stand in relation to their parent’s new partner and their family. The concern might be adult children wanting to protect their inheritance – or there could be concern that their parent might be taken advantage of. Sometimes an adult child might feel very strongly that if, say, their mum has died and their dad has remarried, that he should bear in mind what his deceased wife’s wishes would have been … which would not have included their hard earned money passing to a second wife and/or her family!”
Nowadays when there are many different types of families it’s vital to consider updating your will at least every 5 years and when any significant life event occurs. Many people aren’t aware, for example, that a marriage revokes a will.
Couples will often make “mirror” wills which means that they leave their money and assets to the other – so if A dies everything goes to B and if B dies everything goes to A. If either A or B has children from a previous relationship, this can be a risky strategy. A and B may agree that whichever of them is the survivor will “look after” the other’s children when they die – and the intention to do so may be genuine at the time. However life doesn’t always turn out as we plan it. If A dies and B inherits A’s estate B may intend that when she dies, A’s children will receive some of her estate. But what if she falls out with her step children? Or what if she remarries or lives with someone else? How can A ensure that his children will not be disinherited?
There are options – and a qualified wills and probate solicitor (ideally STEP qualified and/or a member of Solicitors for the Elderly) can advise on them.
A final thought from Sarah Young:-
“We all find it difficult to discuss death and money – but none of us want to leave a legacy of disputes, distress and misunderstanding for our children. So getting good advice and making your wishes as clear as you can to your loved ones (preferably before your death) is definitely to be recommended.”