Relatives of childless actress get a slice of her fortune after legal battle

By Nina Steele 

Claire Gordon was an English actress. She died on April 13, 2015. She was 74. In 1996, she made a will, which left her entire estate, valued at the time of her death to be worth £905,836, to her cousins. However, after her death, a long-time friend of hers, produced another will that left everything to him and his associate. The new will was promptly investigated by the police, and found to be a fake.

The so called friend has now been sentenced to 8 years in prison, and her relatives are each getting the inheritance which was rightly theirs to begin with. After the trial, the relieved relatives released a statement which read: “Our beloved cousin Claire was betrayed by a false friend whilst she was dying of brain cancer. Intent on hijacking her will and estate, he hid her fatal illness from her family and close friends meaning many people were cheated out of the last months of Claire’s life, when they would have wanted to be there for her”. The statement goes on to say: “We’d like to say a huge thanks to the Metropolitan Police who have been so diligent and supportive”.

Of course this could have happened to anyone, regardless of whether they have children or not. But in my experience, being an elderly person without children and estranged from relatives, as Claire Gordon was, gives the impression to those who want to take advantage that you are an easy prey. That Claire Gordon was made to sign the new will while she was dying of cancer, shows how far these people are willing to go.

As we grow older, we all have to be careful who we welcome into our lives, particularly for those with assets. The importance of having a will under those circumstances, can never be overstated. It’s true that having a will did not deter the fraudster in Claire Gordon’s case from making a fake one. But it is also the very existence of the first will that alerted the police to the fact that the second will may have been a fake.

As another layer of protection, particularly once health becomes a concern, it’s wise to give someone the legal authority to act on your behalf, in the form of a power of attorney, which I have written about a few times before. If you are estranged from your relatives or have no one you really trust, you can appoint a firm of solicitors to act on your behalf. Fraudsters are more likely to steer clear, if they realise that every decision you make has to go through a solicitor, or whoever you choose to give power of attorney to.

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