I’ve a question on testamentary freedom in blended families. Like me, you must have seen cases in the newspapers where wills have been overturned. I’ve read a couple of your articles in which you’ve referred to testamentary freedom.
What testamentary freedom and how does it relate to blended families?
Let’s see the power of testamentary freedom, a fundament of inheritance practice in England and Wales grants you. Let’s see the limits of this power, and let’s see how not to abuse it. Ater all, power is nothing without control.
Testamentary Freedom in Blended Families – The Pirelli Calendar
You might recall Carl Lewis, the track and field athlete who had won nine gold medals at the Olympic Games.
In 1994, the tyre manufacturer Pirelli ran a billboard campaign.
They engaged the master photographer Annie Leibovitz to photograph the track star.
The billboard adverts, you might remember them. They featured the track star in red high-heeled shoes. He was in the stance of a sprinter set at the start of a race. It looked rather ridiculous. That, my friend, was the point. The legend on the advertising hoarding comprised five words: power is nothing without control.
The subject of the tyre company’s campaign was clearly the virtues of their products. However, they might as well have had in mind the principle of testamentary freedom.
inheritance issues for blended families
Barely a month passes without some ill-informed observer with clickbait in mind or more prosaically and painfully, an unsuccessful party in inheritance litigation bellowing at the full capacity of their lungs: ‘what’s the point of a will, if the will, which spells out the wishes of the deceased can be overturned?’.
Implied in that plaintive cry of anguish is: ‘it’s my money, surely I should be able to do with it as I wish’.
Here’s the thing. It’s your money, you can do with it as you please.
Here’s the thing. There is a cost and a duty to everything you have. There is a cost and a duty to everything you are. By the principle of testamentary freedom, in England and Wales, you may, by the art of estate planning, leave your estate to whomever you wish. Testamentary freedom in blended families is just that, leave your wealth to whom you wish.
Testamentary Freedom in Blended Families – There and Here
In certain jurisdictions such as Scotland, several European nations, and much of Latin America, there are partial or total forced heirship regimes. Forced heirship means that certain members of the family get specified proportions of the deceased person’s estate irrespective of the provisions of any will that might exist.
In certain jurisdictions with forced heirship, the rules may compel estates to be distributed among step-relatives.
In England and Wales there are no prescriptions on what which relatives might get what assets from a deceased’s person’s estate. You may do as you wish with your estate.
Testamentary Freedom versus Family Solidarity
Let us dispense with a few points on which a will might be contested – one is that the document was a forgery, and the other was the testator did not know what they were doing or that they were pressured or bullied in to writing the will the way it turned out.
Let us assume the document was perfectly valid and the point of contention is that the disappointed expectant beneficiaries claim they have been unreasonably left out of the estate.
By the principle of testamentary freedom, while you may leave your estate to whomever you wish, you may not be capricious or arbitrary about the provisions of your will. In particular the law expects you to make provision in your will for those who depended on you financially.
While there no specific provisions or protections for stepchildren. There are two questions the first is whether or not the stepchildren in question were financially dependent on the person whose will it is, and secondly, the composition of the assets in the estate – are the assets in question in whole or in part from the estate of the biological parent of the stepchild.
Some people present this as a contest between testamentary freedom and family solidarity, this is a false choice.
Testamentary Freedom in Blended Families – Power and Control
The power of testamentary freedom is nothing without the control of using the power judiciously and fairly.
The way to be certain of the sensible use of testamentary freedom in blended families is to speak to an expert and banish blended families potential succession nightmares. Simply book your free discovery call to discuss how testamentary freedom works in blended families.