Inheritance Wars

Inheritance Wars is a phrase which you tend to think will apply solely to individuals with vast amounts of money and stately homes. 

Sadly, as a recent TV documentary demonstrated (Inheritance War: Who Gets the Money), an unexpected outcome on the death of a loved one can bring catastrophic consequences to a family financially and emotionally. With second marriages, blended families and estrangements with family members becoming ever more usual, it is crucial that individuals seek guidance as to how they organise their personal matters. This includes making sure a Will is up to date or making one for the first time so that you choose who inherits your hard-earned assets rather than relying on a predetermined order called the Intestacy Rules, which may benefit a family member you would not wish to inherit anything from you.

It is also important, that you check that any co-ownership of a property is still how you wish it to be. Often people do not want to “rock the boat” in relation to changing an agreement made many years ago when they inherited a property from a grandparent, which they own jointly with their siblings or even an ex-spouse or partner. Do you even know how you own the property? Are you joint tenants or tenants in common, and do you know the impact of each on your death?

Also, with the cost of residential care costs continually escalating, there can be an inclination to pool resources with an older family member without giving clear thought as to what will happen if that elder person cannot be looked after at home, or the younger family members fall out with them or even separate or divorce. All these sorts of arrangements need careful consideration so that everyone involved appreciates not just the immediate short-term benefit but also the longer-term consequences, which they may never have contemplated, as solicitors we see on an increasing basis with disastrous results.

You need to be alert to the decisions that may change the destination of your assets without you even realising. It surprises people that marriage revokes a will even if you marry your long-term partner. You may have thought that as they are the same person you have put to inherit in your will, you have everything covered. It is not unless you have included a specific clause in your will which covers this. This means, as demonstrated in the TV documentary, a widow remarrying, having left all her assets to her children and that marriage, effectively cutting them out completely, although that was not her intention.

Contact us

Our Wills, Trusts and Estates team can guide you through what is needed to safeguard your assets and ensure the people you love inherit what you want them to.

For more information and assistance, you can contact the team at Prettys on 01473 232121 or e-mail Fiona Ashmead at

Fiona Ashmead
Senior Associate