Sons battle step-father over late mother’s estate

10 October, 2017

While many may trust their chosen beneficiaries to provide for other family members, the emotional upheaval following death can lead to unexpected disagreements and conflict within a family. Careful consideration while drafting your Will is essential to ensure all loved ones are provided for and reducing the risk of conflict.  

A recent example is the estate of Lynda Bellingham who passed away leaving a husband of nine years and two sons from a previous relationship. Ms Bellingham updated her Will during the last year of her life, while terminally ill, leaving her estate solely to her husband, Michael Pattemore. Her two sons, Michael and Robbie Peluso, were left no specific inheritance and argued their mother believed Mr Pattemore would provide for them after her death. This, they claim, he had not done which left them having to take legal action against their step-father to seek financial support.

To avoid Will disputes, we generally suggest Wills are reviewed every five years with additional reviews following life-changing events such as marriage, births, etc. By reviewing regularly, you can ensure your estate will be distributed as you wish, carefully providing for all those you would like considered. We also recommend being open and managing expectations where possible so loved ones are not shocked when a Will is disclosed.

Ms Bellingham may have trusted Mr Pattemore to provide for her sons, but she could have ensured their financial well-being by specifying her wishes or by placing her inheritance in a trust. Trustees would ensure the inheritance was wisely invested, provided for Mr Pattemore during his lifetime and, ultimately, would ensure capital preservation for the sons.

If you are concerned your Will does not adequately provide for all your loved ones and dependants, or if you believe you should have received inheritance which you did not, and would like to know whether legal action is an option, please contact the Specialist Disputes team and ask to speak with Philip Youdan or Dino Sikkel.