The future can never be accurately predicted and that is the principal reason why it makes sense to get a professional to draft your will. The point was powerfully made in a recent case, reviewed by Danielle Wane, where a woman whose wish to provide for her disabled son was frustrated by his early death just a few months before she herself passed away.
The woman, an artist and designer who never married, died in her early 50s from bronchopneumonia and motor neurone disease. Her son tragically died 15 months before her, aged 12. He was severely disabled as a result of cerebral palsy throughout his short life. Following her death, the woman’s estate was valued at over £2.2 million.
By her will, which she made when her son was still alive, the woman left everything she had in trust for him as her only child. In a letter of wishes, she said that she was anxious to make the best long-term provision for him that she could. That gift, however, failed entirely due to her son dying before her.
In that event, the will provided that her estate should be held on trust in equal shares for her nieces and nephews – the children, both born and unborn, of her six siblings – who attained the age of 18 or who married under that age.
Difficulties, however, arose in respect of the true interpretation of a clause in the will that empowered her trustees to appoint additional beneficiaries, including charities. Her personal representatives sought a judicial ruling as to whether that power could still be exercised.
Ruling on the matter, the High Court found that the professionally drafted will was clear and coherent on its face. It created two distinct trusts, rather than one, and there was no room for argument that the power of appointment had survived the son’s death. There being no ambiguity in the wording of the will, extrinsic evidence as to the woman’s intentions could not be taken into account.
The Court found that, even had such evidence been admissible, there was nothing to indicate that she had intended the power of appointment to persist in the event that her son died before her. The power was therefore not exercisable and the class of beneficiaries was restricted to the woman’s qualifying nieces and nephews alone.
Our experts can ensure your estate will be dealt with fairly and efficiently. You can make an appointment to see Danielle by calling 01254 70 11 11, or alternatively complete our Contact Us form and one of our expert advisors will contact you.