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A young woman died without a will: now her family is facing years of legal battles for a share of her estate

By Nina Steele 

The importance of writing a willI was at the funeral of a 46 year old young woman the other day. She had a successful career as a nurse and worked hard to build a comfortable life for herself. She was single and childless, her beloved dog, her constant companion. That the dog was also killed in the car accident in which she died, makes her story all the more poignant. Sadly, I have now learnt that she had not made a will and that various people are now making a claim on her estate, including her ex-boyfriend. To make matters worse, because the people she called her mum and dad are not her biological parents and had not adopted her formally, they are not deemed her next of kin under the rules of intestacy, and as such, they may end up with nothing. All the signs point to years of legal wrangling, and if the issue remains unresolved after 12 years, her estate will become property of the state. How sad would it be if that were the case!

The woman who raised her was inconsolable at the funeral and had to be held back when the curtains were drawn over her coffin. As I drove home, I could not get her out of my mind. How sad that she and her husband, after everything they have done for the deceased, may end up with nothing.

It is a cautionary tale for anyone with assets but no will. Most people often think of themselves as special, and that bad things happen to other people. I for one stopped buying into that argument a while ago, when I realised that I am the ‘other people’ in someone else’s eyes. There are absolutely no guarantees that I or anyone reading this article will live to see old age. I hope that I do and live my life in a way that contributes to making that happen. However, ultimately, fate has the last word.

I hate the very idea of putting my loved ones through this kind of heartache. Not only that, because she was not indigenous to this country, the people she called her parents are not UK residents, and as such, they have no choice but to return to their country and fight for her estate from there. That it may take years means that they will have to put their lives on hold, while this whole mess gets sorted. The grief of the ‘mother’ was so plain for all to see that I wonder what all the years of legal wrangling will do to her. What a desperately sad story.

Comments

  1. Nina,
    You raise some really valid and important points. Everyone needs a will! It will not bring on tragedy but will protect surviving family members.

    My sister at age 42 died very unexpectedly, without a will, and no children. After 3.5 years her estate is still tied up in probate and will likely go 100% to her common law spouse who, interestingly, had left her just a couple of weeks before she passed away. But in Canada, if you live common law and die without a will your spouse gets everything. And surprisingly, that spouse even gets any retirement funds or pensions that the person may have had where she NAMED a beneficiary other than the spouse. In our province, it all goes to the common law spouse. Beneficiaries named on a pension fund or a retirement fund set up at your bank are ignored and it all diverts to the common-law spouse. Interesting situation.
    Thank you for the painful reminder that dying intestate is not what anyone expects, but it can happen. It’s always better to have your financial papers and will in order.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. Sorry for the loss of your sister. May her soul rest in peace. Another very sad story that reminds us all that no one can predict what is around the corner. I truly hope that as many people as possible who haven’t yet got a will, decide to have one after reading all our stories. I feel very strongly about this, because of the sheer havoc the lack of will often creates for those left behind.

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