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020 8150 2010

Periods of separation

Many of our clients are unaware that a separation does not have the same effect on a Will as a divorce and fail to make a Will or amend an existing Will to reflect their change in circumstances. Divorce does not invalidate a Will but any gift to a spouse will lapse, as if the donee had predeceased the testator. A separation however will have no effect on a gift under the Will or the intestacy rules relating to spouses and the estranged partner will still inherit. High profile cases in the press have highlighted the importance of ensuring changes are made during a separation. Peter Sellers separated from his wife, Lynne Frederick, after their three year marriage. An agreement was made between them that Ms Frederick would receive a one off payment of £375,000 and their home in Los Angeles. It was also rumoured that Peter was in the process of re-writing his Will, leaving the bulk of his estate to charity, but neither this, or the agreement, were finalised before he died in July 1980. His previous Will, which was admitted to probate, left his £4.5 million estate to M Frederick and only token gifts of £750 to his three children from previous marriages. The children were unable to bring a claim on his estate as the token amounts meant that had not been left out of the Will ‘by mistake’. Ms Frederick died in 1994 and the fortune was inherited by her daughter who never met the star while he was alive. The situation described above is not uncommon. Financial advisor to many football start, Peter Baxter, died in April 2008 after contracting an infection while on a ski-ing holiday. He had been separated from his wife for three years and was living with a new partner. Although the size of his estate was unclear he was considered to be a wealthy man. His estate was distributed according to the terms of a Will drawn up in 1999, leaving his estate to his wife. His family launched a legal action but the claim was thrown out and they were ordered to pay Mrs Baxter’s legal costs. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the effect of events on a Will. Remember clients are advised that changes in personal circumstances will require them to revisit their Will to avoid their estate passing against their wishes

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