Keeping uninvited challengers away from your estate

Thinking about what will happen when you die is no-one’s favourite pastime, but it does form part of a necessary process to protect your assets, money and belongings from those who might see your passing as an opportunity to receive a handout from your estate.

Unfortunately, without magical powers or a crystal ball, it’s impossible to know when that time might arise, so it is important to secure your estate against those who may try to challenge it, as soon as possible.

So, let’s get started.

Making a will

Potentially the most obvious step in arranging what will happen to your estate after your death is to write a will. This document dictates what should happen to your belongings after you have passed away. It can also be used to determine:

  • Who will look after any dependents still in your care when you die
  • Whether any of your estate is donated to charity
  • What happens to your belongings and any heirlooms in your possession
  • At what age your beneficiaries can access any money you leave to them
  • What will happen to your body and what requests you have for your funeral arrangements

Within your will, you can detail who your belongings, money and property is passed on to when you die. It is also useful to note that you can include a Deliberate Exclusion clause, which will provide further protection against those individuals who might otherwise try to claim that they should be included in the distribution of assets. This is very useful if you know that certain individuals are likely to try their luck.

Challenging a will

A family member who wants to take advantage of your estate could challenge your will based on a lack of ‘reasonable financial provision’ being made for them. to make this claim, they must be:

  • Your child, or someone you have cared for as you would your own child
  • Your spouse, or former spouse who has not remarried
  • An unmarried partner, with whom you have cohabited for two or more years immediately before death
  • An individual for whom you are financially responsible

If you have left nothing for someone fitting the above criteria, and they have not been mentioned in a Deliberate Exclusion clause, they could claim that they are entitled to a share of your estate. Not only will that disrupt the probate process, but it could also affect the amount left to the beneficiaries you intended to receive it, if their claim is successful.

Beware unknown relatives

In some circumstances, you may believe that there is nobody who is likely to challenge your will or claim part of your estate as their own. However, there are documented cases of unknown relatives making a claim and being awarded part of a distant relative’s estate, even though they had no relationship or emotional bond with them.

It might seem farfetched, but when protecting your loved one’s inheritance it may be worth double checking the family tree and doubling-down on who is and isn’t a potential beneficiary.

Keep your loved ones informed

As with most issues, communication is key to making sure everybody is in the loop and aware of the situation. By ensuring that those who you intend to leave a legacy to know it, you achieve two things. First, you give them an opportunity to plan their finances around an eventual windfall, while giving them time to get used to the idea. Second, by making sure the executor of your estate is aware of your wishes and feelings around beneficiaries, you increase the chances of them following your directions and keeping unwanted challengers at bay.

Having these conversations early could help your loved ones to refute any statements from challengers claiming that their exclusion is due to a lack of mental capacity, or an oversight. In fact, it may even be useful to record those conversations, or include the executor of your will in any official meetings with solicitors or financial advisors, as witnesses.

Talk to a financial adviser

As experienced, independent financial advisers, we are more than happy to talk through all types of financial concerns you may have, including those surrounding what will happen to your estate when you are no longer around.

Furthermore, the earlier you decide to seek financial advice, the longer we can help you to plan for all eventualities. No matter what stage of life you are currently at, talking to us gives you the benefit of professional insight, years of experience and industry qualifications which will help you to make informed decisions for increased financial stability and confidence for the rest of your life, and beyond.

For more information, or to get started, please contact us on 02380 633377.