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Step families and inheritance – how to avoid the ultimate family feud

Why your will could lead to your family being disinherited – and why they won’t have a leg to stand on

Legal disputes over wills and inheritance are on the rise and are a growing cause of family disputes, especially where step-families are involved. In many cases there is no legal recourse, and every year thousands of people miss out on their inheritance, with many suffering financial hardship as a result. Even the BBC’s latest blockbuster series War and Peace has a dispute about a will as part of its storyline.

This can leave grieving families with a host of problems, especially those relying on funding their retirement from their inheritance.  There have been numerous high profile cases involving ‘ordinary’ families such as that of Stuart Herd, who was betrayed when his step-mother cut him out of her will. His stepbrother, who he had met only once at his stepmother’s funeral, received all his father’s money because his step-mother changed her will after his father’s death.

Stuart met with Barnet Wills and his video testimonial is available.

Listen to Stuart tell his story story

“Stuart’s story is unfortunately not uncommon”, says Eli Pressman of Barnet Wills, a specialist firm that helps clients prepare watertight wills to ensure this does not happen. “There are five major threats to a family’s inheritance and disputes among step-families is just one of those.”

Dorothy, Stuart’s step-mother, had promised him he would inherit his father’s money. But on her death he discovered she had left everything to her son, Michael Cosgrove, who is under no legal obligation to give Stuart any money at all.

Michael Cosgrove of Platt Bridge Wigan, who has refused to talk to Stuart, clearly feels under no moral obligation to give his step-brother the money that rightfully belongs to him. Michael’s mother committed an act of betrayal and now Stuart has lost his inheritance of around £150,000 to a virtual stranger, and with it, the money he was relying on to help his daughter get onto the property ladder. The money due to him was not only his father’s, but also his mother’s and grandparent’s whose estates were passed down.
The number of wills and inheritance disputes reaching the High Court increased by 80% last year. And even if you are one of the estimated 25% of people who has made a will, it is estimated that 95% of those wills are wrongly drafted.

Says Stuart Herd of his ordeal: “After my father William remarried, he prepared a mirror will with my step-mother Dorothy.  Under the terms of those wills the estate first passed to the surviving spouse and then to my step-brother, Michael Cosgrove and myself in equal shares.  After my father died my step-mother changed her will and left everything to her own family.”

According to Mr Pressman, who specialises in helping clients protect their money and avoid these situations, this scenario is not unusual: “Remarriage, especially when the partners are over 60, is the one of the most common ways people get disinherited, with step-children most at risk of losing out.

“The problem is,” he says, “people don’t understand that a will, even one like Stuart’s father’s, that was prepared by a medium sized law firm regulated by the Law Society, can be jeopardised when a surviving step-parent decides to change their will, as a result, effectively disinheriting the original beneficiary.”

“Bad estate planning and lack of information are the main reasons this happens,” continues Mr Pressman. “There is nothing to stop the surviving step-parent from rewriting their will and leaving the children from the first marriage completely out of the new will.

“Usually people have been either badly advised or not advised at all and, in many cases, there has been no legal recourse with many people missing out inheritances they were relying on to fund their lives.

“No one likes to plan for death, especially how they are going to distribute their worldly wealth and possessions, which is why between two thirds and three quarters of people don’t have wills. But if you don’t plan while you’re still alive, you can leave a host of problems and hardships for your grieving family.”

With a few simple strategies in place your money can be protected to ensure that your loved ones don’t lose out.
Please do attend our FREE seminar and find out how you can protect your estate against threats that you may well not even be aware of.

Seminar Details
Wednesday 9th March 2016 at 7pm
Stephens House & Gardens
17 East End Road
Finchley
London N3 3QE

The seminar will last approximately 2 hours and refreshments will be provided free of charge.

To book your free place on this important and interesting seminar, please visit click here:

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1 Comment

  • Stuart Herd

    After my mother died my father William Herd married my stepmother Dorothy (formerly Cosgrove). Shortly afterwards they visited a medium sized firm of Solicitors in Rayleigh, Essex and arranged for mirror Wills to be prepared. Under the terms of those mirror Wills the estate first passed to the surviving spouse and then to my stepbrother Michael Cosgrove and myself in equal shares.
    What people often overlook is that Mirror Wills are only suitable for partners that can be trusted to carry out your wishes. Where a partner cannot be trusted or lacks basic morals the consequences can be disastrous as can been seen in this case.
    Following my stepmothers death in 2012, I discovered she had changed her Will in 2008 and left everything to her own family in Wigan (Michael, Jackie and their adult children Leah and Aaron Cosgrove). Legally she was quite entitled to do this but morally she had betrayed my late father and broken her promise to me. It should be noted there was never a cross word between us and we had remained in constant contact following my late father’s death.
    I had done everything asked of me by my late father and ended up losing my family inheritance of approximately £150,000 which also included the estates of my late grandparents and mother. The Cosgrove’s are fully aware of the situation but still refuse to do the right thing.
    Even some three years on I still cannot come to terms with the consequences of my stepmother’s actions. As a youngster I had a very hard upbringing where money was always scarce and now this family have my family inheritance. My inheritance or part of it would have made such a difference to our current situation.
    Because I have been advised my late stepmother did nothing wrong legally the only chance I have is to keep my story in the public domain in the hope it will encourage the Cosgrove’s to do the right thing. Also I want to warn others that Mirror Wills should be used with great care if at all.
    For my late father’s sake I have to keep fighting to expose what this family has done in order to warn others about the hidden dangers of Mirror Wills.

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