Resolving disputes about Wills, Inheritance and the care of the elderly

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Jane died at the age of 87.  She had intended that her daughter Mary, who had spent the last ten years looking after her, should inherit the small house she had lived in for the last twenty years.  Unfortunately, the homemade Will that she had made was ineffective, partly because she had moved into a care home and sold the house a few months before her death.  Mary had two brothers.  She and her brother David had fallen out years before so that her other brother Robert had a difficult time negotiating the funeral arrangements with them.  

What was bad became worse, when the ambiguity and confusion over their mother’s Will came to light.  Unpleasant letters and threats of Court proceedings hung over the family’s future relationships and would have made Jane turn in her grave.

Robert suggested they might try to resolve what was fast becoming an impossible situation by mediation.  The mediator was able to meet and talk with the family members and together helped them work out a solution which not only enabled the family to agree how Jane’s estate could be shared but also went some way towards restoring family relationships.  The family also avoided the unpleasantness, delay and financial cost of litigation.

Much of the family’s difficulties might, of course, have been avoided if Jane had had her Will drafted by a solicitor.  Nevertheless where disputes arise, whether about Wills, the distribution of estates, the administration of trusts, the care of the elderly or infirm mediation can often help resolve the dispute and restore family relationships.

Nicholas von Benzon

Accredited family mediator and director of Cheltenham Mediation Services Limited