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Family falling out over will - any advice?

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Family falling out over will - any advice?

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Over 50s Money Saving
30 replies 6K views
monkeyspannermonkeyspanner Forumite
2.1K posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Over 50s Money Saving
My MIL has left her estate split equally between her youngest grandchildren all 21 or under. There are a number of other grandchildren in their 30's and 40's. My MIL's children whose own children have not been included in the will are understandably upset. The focus of the bereavement has now shifted from the loss of a central family member to the loss of a perceived right to inherit.

I am my MIL's sole executor and obviously have to carry out her wishes to the letter.

One child whose children will not inherit has been insisting on being told how much money is involved. I don't feel it is my position to disclose any information as yet. I feel that I have a responsibility to keep that information between myself as executor and the beneficiaries (and their parents where the recipient is under 18). I am also expecting sooner or later to be asked for sight of the will by non-beneficiaries.

I would like to defuse the situation and lower family tensions but see no way of achieving this aim. At the moment I have advised the beneficiaries to keep a low profile and not to respond to provocation, and I have answered all queries as fully as I feel able.

I am not really expecting anyone to have a solution as all concerned will eventually have to accept what has been done and live with what has happened. The consequences of an escalating dispute would have very damaging long term consequences to family relationships but I am at a loss as to how to avoid this situation.
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Replies

  • ampersandampersand Forumite
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    I am sorry you are in such a position.
    Were you aware beforehand that this would be the situation?
    Was no-one who had her ear able to attempt other counsel, not that this helps now.
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  • dzug1dzug1 Forumite
    13.5K posts
    A few thoughts:

    I'm not sure that keeping the excluded people in the dark might not be exacerbating matters. True they (and indeed the beneficiaries) have no legal right to know yet, but neither is there a ban on telling them.

    I really doubt they will get anywhere trying to contest the will - they were presumably not dependent on her? Once they've taken legal advice they may calm down.

    A deed of variation springs to mind - but only if all the parties agree. As some of the beneficiaries are minors this would be difficult. And you say you want to carry out MiL's wishes - are you sure that the will truly represents them?

    Not a lot of help, I suspect, but it might prompt further ideas/thoughts.
  • This is certaily not a dig at you as you're doing your best in difficult circumstances, just an outsider's analysis: maybe by being cagey you're raising a suspicion among the excluded ones that you knew she was planning this unusual distribution, so they may see you as having colluded in depriving them of their inheritance (even, heaven forbid, having had an undue influence...)

    Nonsense though it may be, with so much anger around, unfortunately you're a prime target because of your role and their suspicions (however unfounded). I think possibly the first step towards calming things down is to be absolutely open about what you knew, when, everything she ever mentioned to you about her intentions, and of course the exact wording of the will.

    I doubt they'll able to come to terms with their feelings until they know there's nothing else left to find out - for one thing, "the not knowing" will be getting in the way of their grieving process. Somehow you need to work things round to the point where it's a family problem to sort out together rather than a stand-off between the haves and the have-nots. I would suggest giving everyone all the information and let them figure out what has happened and how to move forward.
    :T:j :TMFiT-T2 No.120|Challenge started 12.12.09|MFD 12.12.12 :j:T:j
  • I am my MIL's sole executor and obviously have to carry out her wishes to the letter.

    Why? Is there a legal requirement I'm not aware of?

    When my grandmother died, she left everything to her daughter (my aunt) and nothing to her son (my dad). My aunt automatically said that wasn't fair and they split everything 50:50.
  • Thanks for all the suggestions.

    dzug1 - A deed of variation I think is out as you say because the some of the beneficiaries are minors and therefore no-one has the authority to deprive them of assets. Also I don't feel they should feel in any way obliged to give way. I know that my MIL exercised her free choice when deciding on her will. Knowing her well I doubt she had fully considered the consequences.

    mrsdeadline - I take your point about being cagey but I get the distinct impression that the question is being asked so the person can guage just how angry they should be dependant on the amount. In actual fact they have guessed an amount not so far from the likely figure so maybe there would be no harm in confirming a number although I don't know yet exactly what it will be.

    sandra_nz - Yes that is possible if the beneficiaries are adult and all decide on a variation and I did a deed of variation for my sister in favour of her daughters on my brother-in-laws will. But I don't see it as a possibility i n this case.
  • Edinburghlass_2Edinburghlass_2 Forumite
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    I was the main beneficiary of my aunt many years ago and the lawyer/executor contacted me to say someone wanted to see sight of the will and as the main beneficiary I was entitled to say no.
  • The focus of the bereavement has now shifted from the loss of a central family member to the loss of a perceived right to inherit.

    There is no such thing as a right to inherit.

    Your MIL may have had good reasons for what she did. Maybe she felt that the elder ones were already independent and making their own way in the world, the younger ones had yet to do so. Whatever, it was her money and she had an absolute right to leave it however she chose.
    [FONT=Times New Roman, serif]Æ[/FONT]r ic wisdom funde, [FONT=Times New Roman, serif]æ[/FONT]r wear[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]ð[/FONT] ic eald.
    Before I found wisdom, I became old.
  • ErrataErrata Forumite
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    Oh blimey - where there's a will there's a relative !

    I admire you for wanting to keep things as calm as possible and as many relatives as happy as possible and hope you can pull it off.

    If the beneficiaries, and their parents where relavent, would also like to ensure everyone is kept as happy as possible, could you seek the agreement of all of them to hand out copies of the will to whoever would like one?

    If they don't agree, and sensibly ALL of them would have to agree, then it looks like your only response to enquiries is "I'm sorry I can't tell you anything at the moment". Human nature being what it is, that probably won't satisfy them so all you can do is keep repeating "I'm sorry, I can't tell you anything at the moment" like a record stuck in a groove. They'll get the message eventually, and probably try another tack.

    HTH - you have my sympathy for your loss and also for the position you find yourself in. Your case serves as a shining example of the problems that arise when only one executor is appointed. At least if there are two or three they can present a united front and support each other, even if one of them takes a lead role in executing the estate.
    .................:)....I'm smiling because I have no idea what's going on ...:)
  • Savvy_SueSavvy_Sue Forumite
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    If this is a fairly recent will, made because MIL knew or suspected it wouldn't be long now, then clearly she wanted to give to the younger grandchildren but not the older ones. Actually, given the age gap you describe it sounds as if whenever she made it the older ones were fully adult. So unless there's some good reason to suspect that she was unduly influenced, the older ones need to grow up and accept that mum / grandma knew what she wanted to do. It may not be fair, but it's what she wanted.

    Presumably both the haves and the have-nots include more than one child's children? So it's not just one child whose children have benefited?

    WRT showing copies of the will to everyone, in due course it does become a public document, so either tell the have-nots they can wait until it's all been sorted out, or put that point to the haves to see if they'll agree to it being shown now.

    I suggest copies of Great Expectations for everyone for Christmas ...
    Still knitting!
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  • M.E.M.E. Forumite
    610 posts
    Been there, done that..... went to High Court.
    As you are sole executor and presumably not a solicitor and NOT a blood relative some of the actions do depend on you. If you were a solicitor you would have no qualms in charging the estate a great deal of money if the beneficiaries and wanna be beneficiaries wanted to contest the will. Essentially that is what happened with us. Whilst it was vastly more complicated (solicitor/executor made errors making the will) the upshot was that the will was proved.
    However the losers (my four siblings) were most unusually given judgement that we did not pay any of the sister's costs whatsoever. The will was proved and she got the money BUT the solicitor/executor charged so much money from the estate that it wiped out any advantage she thought she had.
    All along she was told to talk to the rest of the family. She chose not to, thinking that she would not only win the case but be awarded costs. She won the case but paid her own costs PLUS those of the executor, who as a solicitor charged the costs to the estate, ie "HER MONEY".
    Get the children of your mother in law to get together and work out something. Let them negotiate, negotiate, negotiate for a set period (ie up to 6 months). When they finally agree... you as executor get a variation.
    If there is no agreement in six months... go ahead as the will states.
    The ONLY ones who can contest the will are the offspring of your MIL who have not been named in the will.
    If they have been named in the will as "I leave nothing to Mary" then even Mary would have some difficulty in contesting the will.
    In our case one brother was left out without mention so he was able to contest the will. Four of us thought it unfair and not right but our sister (who hated this brother) would not talk to us, so eventually the solicitor just took what she considered "her inheritance".
    Moral at the end of this tale...
    Offspring have to agree. Any legal involvement is an open cheque book for barristers/solicitors. They always get their money from the estate and charge accordingly.

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