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Sideways disinheritance – are your children at risk?

If you have children and move on to a new relationship, it’s important to review your will.

It’s easy in the flush of a new romance to put to the back of your mind the thought of one of you passing away. However, if you’re considering marrying a new partner, or have already done so, you’ll need to take active steps to ensure that your children or intended beneficiaries don’t miss out should you die before your spouse.

This blog will help you ensure that when you pass away your estate goes where you want it to – rather than to your new partner’s family or other beneficiaries, a situation known as “sideways disinheritance” or “accidental disinheritance”.

Lynda Bellingham
A recent, high-profile example of sideways disinheritance came about after Lynda Bellingham, the actress perhaps most recognised for her appearance as the “Oxo mum” in the adverts, passed away and her estate did not provide for her sons.

During Lynda’s second marriage she had two sons, Michael and Robbie. She married for the third time in 2008, to Michael Pattemore. Sadly, Lynda died of cancer, in 2014.

Lynda’s will left all her assets to Michael Pattemore and did not specifically provide for her sons, although he had reportedly promised Lynda that they would be looked after financially when he died.

However, following a feud between Michael Pattemore and Lynda’s sons, he rewrote his will, which had originally left £1 million to be divided between them, with the remainder of the estate split four ways between Lynda’s sons and Michael Pattemore’s two children. A new will, written in 2017, instead leaves his estate to be split only between his two biological children.

Michael Pattemore has recently announced he will marry his new partner, so his will is likely to be rewritten once more.

When you remarry, if you die before making a will (also known as “dying intestate”), your partner through marriage or civil ceremony will inherit and, if there are heirs on your side in the form of children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, then the law also states that they will inherit a certain amount only if the estate is valued at over £250,000.

However, if you make a will leaving your estate to your new partner, your children will not automatically inherit unless your will explicitly states those wishes. If you don’t name them as beneficiaries in your will, you will be relying on your partner’s goodwill to carry out your wishes, without any legal framework.

Making a will is also particularly important if you have children with a partner to whom you are not married or in a civil partnership. Without a will, whilst the children will automatically inherit an equal share of the estate, there is no automatic right to inheritance for the surviving parent, meaning they won’t receive a penny.

During our first meeting with you, we ask many questions so that we can fully understand your family relationships (emotional and legal), in order to draw up wills and trusts to avoid situations such as the unfortunate case of Lynda Bellingham and her children. As well as wills, we can also look at mechanisms such as life-interest trusts, protective property trusts, and how the way you own your home (joint tenants vs tenants in common) can affect intestacy.

Contact us
TLB Planning specialises in legal affairs, insurances and funeral plans to take you and your loved ones “Through Life and Beyond”.

Our Legal Services staff have extensive experience in the field and are all STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) qualified Will Drafters, so you can be confident that we provide the highest professional standards.

If you would like to talk to us about your plans for wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, trusts and other matters, do get in touch on 01792 342 673 or email us at info@tlbplanning.org