BBC Radio Tees – Mike Parr – 2 September 2015
Stowe Family Law’s Senior Partner Marilyn Stowe was invited on to BBC Tees to discuss the topic of wills and leaving a will. Before the interview members of the public were asked whether they expected to be named in a will with the majority claiming that they should receive something.
MP: Mike Parr
MJS: Marilyn Stowe
MP: Morning Marilyn
MP: So what you make of that reaction on the street there?
MJS: Well, shocking isn’t it. I suppose as a solicitor, what we will see is first of all somebody who wants to make a will might be elderly and there might be a concern that there is some sort of undue influence over them. We might then see somebody who wants to contest a will; they might be arguing that the will is not valid. And then the other type of person we might see is somebody who things that provision should be made for them out of an estate, insufficient or not, out of a will. Or if the person dies intentionally without making a will, they think that provision should have been made for them out of the estate. So we get to see all aspects of human nature in our field.
MP: So what sort of lengths will people go too to protect their inheritance?
MJS: Protecting your inheritance is something that we see can be quite unedifying, somebody who deliberately decide to stick the knife in between people in the same family. People might even try and cause a divorce in order to protect their own inheritance. Might try and confer in somebody in order to protect an inheritance and rule somebody else out. There’s all sorts of things you see but a good lawyer will be wise to it and want to know what the person making the will really feels, and when you get talking to that person on their own, assuming of course that they have the mental capacity to make those decisions, then you do get to know the real picture.
MP: Do you think most people think they’re entitled to the money then, rather than that person knowing they’re enjoying themselves?
MJS: I think they do. I think if you are a child or if you are looking after somebody who is elderly, even if you may have the highest of principles, at the end of the day if you do that there’s a few quid there, I suppose you may think well after that person has gone, why shouldn’t I profit from it? But really, at the end of the day, it’s the person who owns the money that can do what they want. My concern is that when you see elderly people, they have needs they are old, they get ill, they have care needs and I think that should be provided to best of that person’s ability.
MP: So a lot of people expecting to get money are going to be disappointed aren’t they because the cost of a care home now is phenomenal?
MJS: It is phenomenal. I think that you’ve got to really strike a balance between wanted to benefit your family after you’ve gone but also making sure that you never want for anything. What is interesting is people who make tax advantageous gifts, for example if you give away a substantial sum and you live seven years after that you can avoid paying inheritance tax and that is quite a legal thing to do. But some people give away vast sums of money in order to benefit from the tax and then fall out massively with the person they have given the money to because what they’ve expected that person to do, namely look after them, hasn’t happened. And you get huge family dispute on that basis as well.
MP: And do you think those people want to pass money down the generations or do you think that they feel under pressure to do that?
MJS: I think it can be both. I think that as you get older you lose confidence, you’re probably not as well as you were, you get a bit shaky and your perspective is very narrow and I think fear is a big problem. So making the right decision and making the right balance between looking after yourself and passing something on to your dependants, it becomes very difficult especially if somebody is putting pressure on you and it might be pressure that is not obvious. Somebody who is being terribly nice, terribly kind but really their motives are quite different.
MP: Marilyn, good to talk to you, thank you. Marilyn Stowe is a family lawyers from Stowe Family Law.