Does your Will adequately cover what is to happen if a beneficiary dies before you?

Partner Antony Caulfield

Antony Caulfield, Private Client Partner, discusses the importance of including adequate substitutional provisions in a Will.

In my experience clients will often, particularly with homemade Wills, fail to adequately cover what is to happen, if their main beneficiary dies before them. We have been dealing with a couple of cases recently, where the failure of the deceased to include adequate substitutional provisions in a Will, has led to the deceased dying intestate and their estate passing to beneficiaries they did not even know.

One particular case, which we are still administering, highlights the potentially disastrous consequences that can arise. In our case the deceased died in December 2018 and left her estate to her sister, who died before her. Unfortunately, after her sister died, the deceased did not get around to updating her Will, meaning that she died intestate.  A firm of genealogists was instructed in February 2019 to locate all the beneficiaries of the estate. As the deceased was not married, did not have any children and had no surviving parents, siblings, nephews or nieces, uncles, aunts, or their children, the estate, under the intestacy rules, passes to distant cousins. To date the genealogists have located 58 beneficiaries from several different countries including the Republic of Ireland, America and Australia. Of these beneficiaries we are only aware of one, who was actually in contact with the deceased, prior to her death. The genealogists are continuing their enquiries and it is possible further beneficiaries will come to light. To date the fees paid to the genealogists exceed £23,000 and the fact the deceased died intestate has not only lead to significant delays in winding up the estate, but has also led to substantially increased costs. A further complication is that at least one of the beneficiaries who have been identified, has now died, leading to further delays, whilst a Grant of Representation is obtained to their estate, to enable their share of our deceased’s estate, to be paid out.

All these added complications and delays, could have been avoided, if the deceased had included substitutional provisions in her Will, confirming what she wanted to happen to the estate, if her sister died before her. This unfortunate case highlights the importance of taking the time to fully consider all possibilities and taking professional advice, when drafting your Will.

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