Well yes I joke, but this week the first part of my post is deadly serious.
So grab a coffee, tea or your favourite drink and absorb the facts!
It’s quite a long read this week, sorry. Mind you, if you don’t want to read the serious stuff, you can click or jump to weekly news section which has my signature (now patented) weekly update.I remember about 7 years ago talking to one of IBM’s UK Directors at a meal, about the fact that I hadn’t made a Will. Bang, well I was told in no uncertain terms to sort it out the very next week! Like now, I was married to Jean with one son. What the UK Director had seen in his role as a Pension trustee, would make you wince. People dying yes, but then their financial matters being in a terrible state because of the absence of, or a problematic Will. After this, of course, I made my Will, as did Jean.
With MND or other serious diagnosis, you often hear the phrase, “go home and get your affairs in order”. It’s a bit unnecessarily brutal, but the lessons I have learnt apply to us all, healthy or otherwise, and in particular if you have one child or more.
Obviously, I am not a solicitor, and I would strongly recommend you to speak a trusted one like Bragg, Bragg and Bragg! Also, what I write may be absolutely understood by you already and your affairs are totally in order (tickety boo and all that). However, this is for all of you, and I never assume anything. In fact, to be honest I thought of none of this really until MND struck. Please note what I write is what I have learnt from English Law, and for my friends around the globe, rules may differ. However, if I spark an “I’d better check” thought, I have succeeded.
Ok here goes……
So you hear about getting your Will in order. Ok, we did that, we thought. What you are not often told are some of the things you need to protect against. So when we first made our Wills we did the obvious, like leave all to each other etc. The solicitor just did what we said.
Simply put this is NOT enough and can lead to horrendous minefields, not much better than having no Will at all.
Ok Lee, get on with it! Get to the point!
What you have to understand first is that a Will is a legal document that can be changed by the author (donor) at any time. This is the first warning or red flag.
Secondly what assets do you have? For the sake of simplicity today I am going to assume that your home is the main asset, and I will focus on that. Other assets may need similar focus, although this is typically the most important.
The situations I am about to describe, can happen, do happen and in far more than a good percentage of cases than imagined. There are always high profile ones, including here in the UK, Lynda Bellingham, her third husband and her two children from an earlier marriage. I will make no comments on that case because we can’t possibly know the real detail of it, aside from what we hear in the media (I doubt if we have the full facts). However, I will make one comment at the end, which is pretty much indisputable.
You are happily married with one child, and your Wills leave your house to each other, and then to your child. This is a classic Will structure.
Second red flag. After one of you dies, your partner, who initially receives everything, changes his or her Will. Perhaps he/she finds love again, is brought under the spell of a vulture etc. This happens all the time. Certainly you would want your partner to find love again, it is only natural. However, this one issue means that your child, if then excluded from their new Will, will potentially lose their rightful blood inheritance! Even if the new Will has the classic statements eventually leaving to your child, once an asset is given to a third party, it is then their Will that dictates! Even worse, if your partner remarries and doesn’t update his or her Will, the original Will is made invalid in England and a new partner could inherit all!
One simple way to avoid this disaster, and potentially your wishes being negated, is to create within your Will a trust that on your death bequeaths half of your house to your child immediately. In this way your child’s inheritance is guaranteed whatever the outcome. The trust is written with terms that mean your husband or wife has complete control of, and is entitled to live in the house forever. But if he or she remarries, half the house is safe from being lost.
Using such a mechanism will protect against any deliberate or accidental “sideways disinheritance”.
So what was your comment about Lynda Bellingham’s case, Lee?
From comments in the press her sons appear to have been effectively cut out of her Will for whatever reason or mistake. Let’s assume that what is being said in the press is true, i.e. that she signed a new Will several months before her death, and left everything to her current husband. Now of course she may have been totally aware of what she was doing, but let’s continue on the assumption she didn’t and really did want her sons to inherit something.
So what can her children do? On the face of it I don’t think they have any chance. There are only 3 reasons that our highest courts will decide in their favour:
1) They have to prove that the Will was made under pressure.
This is beholden to them to prove. This is extremely hard, if not impossible, and it could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. Based on her estate and funds they may try. Typically this never works.
2) The will is invalid, or is not written to regulations.
In England, you can pretty much write a Will on a scrap of paper, and as long as it signed correctly, it’s legit. There are differences between countries. Interestingly in Scotland a Will has to be signed on every page! Not in England. I would be highly surprised if her Will is invalid.
3) The person or persons who have been excluded from a Will were in fact financially dependent on the deceased person.
This is the case that received some attention in the UK last year, but actually has been part of English law for a long time.
So if her children are working or have funds, the Will is valid and they can’t prove pressure, there can only be one be one result, i.e. the husband receives all.
What your loved ones may have intended counts for nothing in the law of the land.
So that’s the cheer over with guys. Needless to say, we have lock tight Wills now.
I hope I have got you worried, and for a minimal cost this can all be prevented.
Weekly update time. So what has been happening in my world this week? On the subject of check, check, and recheck, something happened to me last week that shows you can never be too careful. I was out on my trike, and I really felt exhausted half way through and for the rest of the ride. The same happened the next day. I was beginning to worry about my lungs, as MND does affect all the voluntary muscles including those for breathing. So I was a bit low.
On getting the trike out the next morning, I noticed that when I moved it, there was strangely some resistance. When I moved the steering wheels to the left the trike moved easier! After examination I found that the right hand brake drum cable lock nut had come loose, and over a period of days it had effectively allowed a tighter adjustment of the brake. As the brake cables are attached to the steering arms, the cable started to tighten at different positions of the steering range! I had been triking with the brake about 30% applied on the right front wheel!
A quick adjustment and freedom! It certainly explained why that smug 5 year old on her Peppa Pig bike had overtaken me (road hog). So I am hopeful that my breathing is unaffected yet. Every body change makes me a bit twitchy, and some are just getting old.
At the start of the week, I received an email from a friend in our Village, that simply said “I have joined your club, I was diagnosed with MND last week”. There is an immediate reaction to such an email, “no not someone else in a small village”. Already in the Village a friend’s brother up the road and another friend’s mother had suffered from MND. The reality is this disease is not uncommon. The 1 in 400 fits in with most of us knowing 1 or 2 cases. I am quite confident there is nothing about the geography that is affecting numbers. As I mentioned on my Research page, numbers are consistent and all studies looking at clusters are very weak and none show a useful causal link.
It was my 53rd Birthday this week, woo hoo made it! Got this fabulous card from a friend.
As you know, I ride a trike. I am making a modified version of the above with three wheels. Tests so far have really messed up the pizzas!
It was also the second anniversary of my diagnosis. Remember there is no tomorrow, only today. Right, time for some on-line shopping!
In our garden, we have an old wooden bench that, is to put it bluntly, past it’s use by date. So I said to Jean, “let’s get a new one”.
We discussed what size, and I suggested one about the width of that new one in the local Church graveyard! “How big is it?” She said. “I don’t know, I’ll go and measure!” Then I realised it would like kind of look odd someone measuring up in a graveyard. “This is the size we need Jean, both of us and the dogs can fit!” I am sure I saw the Vicar running scared!
On Thursday, I had a reporter from the Portsmouth News interviewing me. More advertising for the big June 4th MNDA fund raiser! Our donations for raffle and auction prizes have been consistently coming in, and we now have a really unique set of prizes.
Watch out for a bumper series of posts next week. There has been a small hiccup in the organisation of our event, in that Lord Lee Bragg has signed exclusive agency rights with the Sid James Experience! So watch out for some dodgy dealings!
So June 4th, Robin Hood Inn, 8:30 pm, music, raffle and auction.
Same time, same place next week readers.
No, actually, loads of posts coming! So keep your smartphone handy!