‘Mum’s toy­boy lover chal­lenged her will’

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - MONEY - Mar­i­anna Hunt

Your will may not be as wa­ter­tight as you think, ex­perts have warned, as the fi­nal wishes of the de­ceased are be­ing in­creas­ingly chal­lenged in court by those who feel ag­grieved at be­ing left out. One fam­ily told Tele­graph Money that they have ef­fec­tively lost their in­her­i­tance to a “se­cret toy­boy” lover, who made a suc­cess­ful claim against the will of their late mother in Birm­ing­ham County Court ear­lier this month.

In a case presided over by Judge Rawl­ings, the Ep­ton fam­ily at­tempted to de­fend a claim against the will and es­tate of Norma Hall by Ray­mond Brader.

Janette Ep­ton, 65, the daugh­ter of Mrs Hall, and Lisa Ep­ton, 39, the grand­daugh­ter, were to be the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of her es­tate. Mrs Hall’s will was writ­ten in 2001 and, ac­cord­ing to Jeff Ep­ton, 67, her son-in-law, she had left two thirds of her es­tate to Janette and the rest to Lisa. The value of the es­tate stood at about £280,000, he said, in­clud­ing a £200,000 bun­ga­low in Nuneaton.

How­ever, the court found that the will did not make a rea­son­able fi­nan­cial pro­vi­sion for Mr Brader, Mrs Hall’s ro­man­tic part­ner, who was some 20 years her ju­nior. While the Ep­tons would in­herit the Nuneaton prop­erty and the re­main­ing £80,000 or so in other as­sets, the court ruled that Mr Brader should be granted a rent-free life­time ten­ancy in the bun­ga­low, where he had lived with Mrs Hall.

The court also found that the Ep­ton fam­ily should pay 75pc of Mr Brader’s le­gal fees, start­ing with an in­terim pay­ment of £15,000 by 4pm on Oct 3.

Mr Ep­ton, a re­tired bank man­ager, said he be­lieved Mr Brader’s story to be “a tis­sue of lies and fab­ri­ca­tions”.

He said the fam­ily had been com­pletely un­aware of any ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship be­tween Mr Brader and the late Mrs Hall un­til later in her life, when she moved to a care home and be­gan to suf­fer from de­men­tia. Only then, Mr Ep­ton said, did Mr Brader be­gin to de­scribe their re­la­tion­ship as ro­man­tic.

“We later learnt that he had been liv­ing in the prop­erty with her, un­be­known to us,” he said. “Be­fore that they al­ways re­ferred to each other as friends. When she went into care and cer­tainly af­ter she died, he sud­denly re­ferred to her as his part­ner and he chal­lenged her will on that ba­sis.” Mr Brader could not be reached for com­ment.

Mr Ep­ton said he felt his wife, who is a sim­i­lar age to Mr Brader, had been ef­fec­tively de­nied her in­her­i­tance as she will be un­able to live in or sell the prop­erty un­til Mr Brader’s death.

On top of this, Mr Ep­ton said a large chunk of the re­main­ing in­her­i­tance would be eaten up in le­gal fees, which they es­ti­mated to be in the re­gion of £80,000. “Our own fees are about £40,000 and we are hav­ing to pay most of his,” he said. “If we didn’t have that cash from the es­tate avail­able to us, we would have lit­tle way of pay­ing these fees shy of raid­ing my own life sav­ings.”

Gary Ry­croft, of so­lic­i­tors Joseph A Jones, said peo­ple ran the risk of their wills be­ing chal­lenged if they did not make rea­son­able pro­vi­sion for peo­ple such as part­ners or fi­nan­cial de­pen­dants, who could have a claim.

Un­less you write off the risk of your will be­ing con­tested by mak­ing a small pro­vi­sion, he said, a claimant could end up tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant share of your le­gacy.

Ian Bond of Higgs & Sons, an­other law firm, said more peo­ple were hav­ing to in­clude let­ters and mem­o­ran­dums in their wills to head off the in­creas­ing num­ber of claims be­ing made.

“We are liv­ing in an aus­tere so­ci­ety where peo­ple have be­come more open to the idea of chal­leng­ing wills, even for rel­a­tively small sums of money,” he said.

Mr Bond said he had seen nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of in­her­i­tance squab­bles over es­tates worth only tens of thou­sands of pounds, where ex­pen­sive le­gal fees of­ten ended up wip­ing out any even­tual wind­fall.

He rec­om­mended that peo­ple kept their wills up to date and made any nec­es­sary pro­vi­sions in line with changes to their cir­cum­stances: di­vorce, a new part­ner, mov­ing in with some­one or hav­ing chil­dren.

“If you do not keep your will up to date, the more the years pass the more you open up the op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to make a claim,” he said.

Al­most three quar­ters of the adult pop­u­la­tion have not made a will, ac­cord­ing to Co-op Funer­al­care, the funeral di­rec­tor.

While there is a pos­si­bil­ity you will be chal­lenged if you ex­clude some­one who is a sig­nif­i­cant part of your life, writ­ing your wishes into a will is still the best way to en­sure your as­sets will be passed on to the right peo­ple af­ter your death, Mr Ry­croft said.

He added that if you wanted to make your will “wa­ter­tight” you could in­clude a writ­ten state­ment along­side your will that clearly sets out why you have ex­cluded some­one. If a dis­pute is raised later on, this will make your fi­nal wishes more de­fen­si­ble in court.

“You need to be for­ward think­ing in your plan­ning and very frank with your­self about your per­sonal cir­cum­stances and who de­pends on you fi­nan­cially,” Mr Ry­croft said.

The fi­nal wishes of de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers are be­ing con­tested in court more than ever, says Harry Bren­nan

The com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog has launched a ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how long­stand­ing cus­tomers lose out on more than £4bn a year as the re­sult of ex­ploita­tion by banks, in­sur­ers and tele­coms firms.

Cit­i­zens Ad­vice, which made a “su­per com­plaint” to the reg­u­la­tor, said con­sumers in five mar­kets were pay­ing a “loy­alty penalty”, with eight in 10 peo­ple pay­ing too much in at least one mar­ket.

It iden­ti­fied sav­ings ac­counts, mort­gages, home in­sur­ance, mo­bile con­tracts and broad­band deals as the ar­eas where cus­tomers were most likely to be rolled over into un­com­pet­i­tive prod­ucts.

For in­stance, it is thought that up to 50pc of broad­band cus­tomers are sleep­walk­ing into poor­value deals by fail­ing to switch when in­tro­duc­tory of­fers end.

A spokesman for Cit­i­zens Ad­vice said: “It’s out­ra­geous that eight in 10 peo­ple are hav­ing to pay a sig­nif­i­cantly higher price in at least one of the mar­kets for re­main­ing with their ex­ist­ing sup­plier.” On av­er­age, cus­tomers are los­ing out to the tune of £877 a year, or 3pc of the an­nual cost of run­ning a typ­i­cal house­hold, the char­ity said.

Si­mon McCul­loch, di­rec­tor of price com­par­i­son web­site Com­pare the Mar­ket, said: “In­er­tia is a sys­temic prob­lem, which providers of­ten take ad­van­tage of. When it comes to buy­ing fi­nan­cial prod­ucts, cus­tomer loy­alty is rarely re­warded.”

The com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog has promised to re­spond within 90 days with rec­om­men­da­tions to the Gov­ern­ment.

Le­gal fees of­ten end up wip­ing out any even­tual wind­fall

Janette and Jeff Ep­ton say their fam­ily has ef­fec­tively lost a £280,000 in­her­i­tance af­ter the will of Mrs Ep­ton’s mother was suc­cess­fully chal­lenged in court

Miss­ing out? Mo­bile phone cus­tomers could be on un­com­pet­i­tive rates

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