The chaos you can leave behind when you die without a Will has been graphically illustrated by a recent case at the High Court.
Mick Ivory died in November 2018 and, according to his brother Peter, it was his dying wish that the rest of his family didn’t get a penny.
“There’s no money left now,” Peter told the court. “Mick told me to keep it all and, if I couldn’t keep it, to give it away. His whole plan was to make sure they didn’t get it.”
Peter claims he gave the bulk of the money from his brother’s estate to the poor, the homeless, dog charities and a school.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, two of Mick’s other brothers and a nephew have disputed this arguing that because Mick made no Will, his estate should have been split equally between them under the laws of intestacy.
What happened to the money?
Peter, who denies keeping any of the money for himself, has been told by the High Court to provide a detailed account of exactly who he gave cash to with the threat of a prison sentence if he does not comply.
Adjourning the case, Judge Paul Teverson said: “This is not a small sum of money, it is not the type of amount one could expect to see distributed in notes on the street to needy people.
“The claimants are entitled to know what happened to the money.”
Peter is defending his actions and his relatives’ claims using the legal concept of ‘donatio mortis causa’, meaning a gift made by a sick person close to death.
Peter Ivory claims that as Mick lay dying he made him promise to do three things:
After Mick’s death, Peter received the £414,000 estate and after expenses and selling his brother’s home in Surrey, was left with £367,000.
According to Peter, he took charge of the dog, gave the memorabilia to the Osmond fan club and withdrew £150,000 in cash which he gave to those in need including strangers and homeless people with dogs.
He also wrote a letter to his brother, Alan, outlining what he said were Mick’s final wishes.
He said that Mick ‘could not bear the thought’ of Alan’s wife having access to the money he was leaving.
In the letter he added: “So instead I have given it to hard-working poor and homeless people, so there is no money left and you must do what you think is morally right like I have done by respecting his wishes.”
Lawyer Simon Douglas, representing Mick’s other brothers Alan and John and nephew Michael, said there was no hard evidence of Mick’s dying wishes or where the money he’d left had gone.
Peace of mind
Mick Ivory could have avoided many of the difficulties currently being experienced by his family by making a correctly drawn Will.
This is an inexpensive way of being clear about who is to get what and also brings peace of mind by putting you in control of the destination of your estate.
It also gives you the chance to take wealth preservation steps to structure your affairs, not only to minimise your liability for inheritance tax, but to maximise tax relief too.
For help and advice about making or reviewing your Will, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.
For help and advice about contesting a Will, please contact Wards Solicitors’ specialist Probate Disputes team.