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Coronation Street’s Baldwins do battle

Has Coronation Street got a warning message for us all?

Many of us will continue to be transfixed about the storyline following the death of Mike Baldwin and the battle between his two sons, Danny and Adam. But what is the underlying message behind all of this?

The facts:

  1. Mike died having been diagnosed with Alzheimers
  2. He was survived by 3 adult sons- Danny, Adam and Mark
  3. Mike has 2 Wills—one made in England, one in Spain
  4. Under first Will, Adam gets £10,000—feels aggrieved!
  5. Mark gets nothing but is not seeking anything—-yet!!
  6. Danny gets residue and bulk of Mikes assets
  7. Only first will come to light—so far!

This was a good example of the emotional turmoil that a dispute over a Will can cause. Adam feels that he has been badly treated by receiving a very modest sum whereas Danny feels vulnerable to claims being made by various family members and the disharmony that this is having upon all members of his family and relations.
But what claims could the various family members have?

Lets deal with Adam first of all.

He was left £10,000 in the Will but feels that it should have been much more. If he had been “dependent” (ie financially supported) by Mike then it may well be that under the Inheritance Provisions for Family & Dependent Act 1975 ( “IHA 1975”) ( subject to various conditions) he may well have been able to bring a claim against the Estate for a higher amount if he can show he had not been properly provided for but this would, of course, depend upon the circumstances of the other beneficiaries under the Will ( ie Danny and Dannys son Jamie) and their own financial circumstances.

However, the general principle is that a person can leave his Estate to whoever he wishes and however he so wishes.

The situation may, of course, be very different if Adam could show that at the time the Will was entered into that either Mike did not have the mental capacity to understand the nature and content of his Will or perhaps even more significantly that perhaps Danny had been exerting “undue influence” over him. For example, as we may all recall it was Danny that was pushing Mike to go to the solicitors at a time when he knew that he was ill and he was also present in the solicitors office at the time when the Will was made out. Perhaps the lawyer who dealt with the preparation of the Will was unaware of Mike’s illness and if he had been on notice of it then surely the lawyer would have sought independent medical evidence as to Mike’s mental capacity.

The situation becomes even more intriguing with the existence of the second Will!

What is going to happen if and when this second Will comes to light? The second Will leaves everything to Adam and not to Danny.

There is no doubt that unravelling the situation, if the second Will is established as being genuine and valid, is going to cause significant problems. Adam would immediately apply to have the first Will overturned and replaced by the second Will.

Danny, however, may not simply “roll over” and accept the validity of the second Will. He may say that the first Will is still the valid Will. The second Will being prepared whilst Mike was in Spain. He would want to look at the question of the validity of a Will being made in Spain. Danny may use the question of Mike’s mental capacity to his own advantage and argue that Mike did not have the necessary mental capacity to make the second Will. Again, the question of medical evidence as to Mike’s mental state would need to be obtained.

If it is established that Mike didn’t have the necessary mental capacity to enter into the second Will it would be invalid and therefore the first Will would then become the operative Will. Would Adam then use the same argument in relation to the first Will? Who knows?.

If Mike did not have the mental capacity in respect of both Wills then unless there was an even earlier Will it may then be the case that Mike may well have died without there being any valid Will and therefore his Estate would have to be dealt with under what is known as the rules of “Intestacy”. If so, as Mike will have died without being married then his Estate would be divided between his surviving children. The irony of this situation would be that perhaps the Estate would be divided between Danny, Adam and Mike’s other son Mark (whom as we know was totally excluded from either Will).

OK, so how could all this have been avoided?

  • Ensure that one, at all times, has a valid Will prepared.
  • To avoid capcity issues such as Alzheimers then the earlier that any new Will is prepared the better and it would be extremely advisable to ensure that your lawyer is told about the illness when he will then be able to advise that appropriate medical evidence is obtained to demonstrate that when making the Will one has the appropriate mental capacity. These are all proper safeguards that should be undertaken so that the individual can be shown to have fully understood the nature and effect of the Will.
  • Consider entering into what is known as an “Enduring Power of Attorney” (EPA). If one has trust and confidence say in family members, friends or perhaps even a legal advisor, then this would give such trusted people power to take care of all ones financial affairs which would even continue if one eventually lost mental capacity at any stage.

Again, the earlier one prepares an EPA the better. One would not want to leave the preparation of an EPA until it is too late.

The moral?

Act now before it is too late?

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