estate planning Archives - MLP Law

Dispute over George Michael’s Estate from former partner

It has been more than five years since George Michael’s death on Christmas Day 2016, yet the disputes regarding his estate are only just reaching an agreement.

Despite having left a Will leaving his estate being split between various family members and friends, his estate was contested by his former partners, Kenny Goss and Fadi Fawaz neither of whom were provided for under the terms of the late singer’s Will.

Fadi Fawaz issued a claim on the basis of maintenance to support the lifestyle which he became accustomed during the couple’s seven-year relationship. Previously reported, he had asked to remain in the £5 million property where George had allowed him to live.

The Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 is designed to protect people who ought to have been provided for under a Will but for some reason, were not. Those individuals are entitled to make a claim against the estate for reasonable financial provision to be made. A category of persons eligible for making a claim are spouses or partners who had been living with the deceased in a loving relationship for two years prior to their death.

Fadi Fawaz were reportedly in a relationship for five years prior to George Michael’s death, so it is reasonable to believe that he was capable of bringing a claim against the estate if he could demonstrate this and that he was financially maintained by George prior to his death.

Meanwhile, Kenny Goss persevered in attempting to claim from the late singer’s estate. Following the bitter court battle the trustees of the estate agreed to an undisclosed settlement to Kenny.

Although the estate was left to family and friends, Kenny Goss claimed that he had been promised monthly maintenance to support him following their split in 2011. Kenny sought the sum of £15,000 per month, for life. Kenny argued that he was financially dependent on George during their relationship and he had given up his own career to focus on his relationship with George. Crucial to his claim, he stated that he had remained financially reliant on George even after they split and until George’s death in 2016.

As previously mentioned, the 1975 Act allows certain categories of persons to bring a claim against a deceased’s estate. In this instance, Kenny would need to demonstrate that he was financially dependent on the deceased prior to his death.  Kenny also claimed that when George prepared his Will in 2013, there were questions surrounding his mental capacity.

Kenny based his lawsuit on two common reasons for making a successful claim for inheritance. As he was capable of demonstrating his financial dependency on the deceased he was able to reach an undisclosed settlement with the estate trustees.

The importance of a properly prepared Will offering you all the advice and guidance you need is vital in complex circumstances. Seeking advice from a specialist can avoid the need for lengthy and costly legal proceedings following the death of a loved one.  

MLP Law are advocates at ensuring our clients’ needs are provided for, including preparing them for events during lifetime as in death, to ensure peace of mind. At MLP Law our team of experts are here to talk you through the process, guaranteeing a service which is tailored to your individual needs.

How can MLP Law help me?

If you’re thinking about making or updating your will or require assistance with estate planning needs, please get in touch with our Wills, Trust and Probate solicitors. If you have any particular questions regarding dealing with claims for family and dependents are specialist solicitors can offer advice and guidance.

Our offices are open for covid-19 safe appointments, alternatively we can discuss your instructions via telephone, video call or email.

Contact Details for Wills, Trusts and Probate Team: 0161 9269969 or WTP@mlplaw.co.uk

Estate Planning: Managing your affairs in a Post-Covid world

Welcome to our series of blogs, addressing post-lockdown issues from a legal perspective.  This week sees the latest blog, from our MLP Wills, Trusts and Probate team, looking at Estate Planning post lockdown.

Uncertain times often lead us to review our personal and financial circumstances, it can be helpful to consider the practical steps you can take to plan for the future.  Covid-19 has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the last 12 months, and this article looks at the key things to consider to getting your life back on track and putting effective strategies in place to manage your business and personal affairs as we come out of lockdown.

We have set out below some things to consider putting in place as part of your estate planning needs:

A Will:

Preparing a Will and ensuring your affairs are in order is fundamentally important. It offers you the peace of mind that your wishes are met, whilst easing the stress of loved ones who ultimately have to administer your estate.

There are many benefits to a properly drafted Will and these include providing for minor beneficiaries and the appointment of guardians, help reduce your inheritance tax liability, asset protection and protection of assets for vulnerable or disabled beneficiaries. Reviewing your Wills in ever changing circumstances can ensure that your instructions are up to date and tailored specifically to your needs and wishes.  It is beneficial to consider the use of trusts in your Will to best manage your affairs and make use of all available reliefs.

Without a Will in place, your loved owns will have no choice but to distribute your estate in accordance with the Intestacy Rules.   The rules determine who should inherit from the estate of the deceased based on the surviving family members. The rules do not take into account personal relationships and who is at need but simply look at the family connections and bloodline.

With today’s wide range of estates and the complexity of family structures, it is important to seek professional guidance to ensure that all matters are dealt with properly.

Lasting Powers of Attorneys:

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone, in advance of deterioration of health, to make decisions on your behalf. This is becoming increasingly important as the risk of mental incapacity grows. However, the key thing in preparing these documents is that they need to be put in place before an individual loses capacity.

There are two types of LPAs, a Property & Finance LPA and a Health & Welfare LPA. Property and Finance LPAs let you appoint someone to make decisions including helping you with finances, managing your taxes, buying and selling assets. The Health and Welfare LPA allows your attorneys to make decisions relating to your personal care, accommodation and life sustaining treatment.

In the absence of an LPA, if you were to lose capacity your loved ones would have to apply to the Court of Protection to be made a Deputy. This process is both long and costly.

Preparing LPAs at an earlier point ensures that you have control over who is appointed and you can make them aware of your wishes, to ensure that they always act in your best interest.

Business Owners:

The turbulence of the last 12 months has highlighted the need for business owners to think about succession planning, this can include putting provisions in place should one part die or review the passing on of shares in the company to family members.

Succession planning for businesses is beneficial for the owners, the company and their clients. By ensuring the company goes through a stable transition, the company is able to continue providing the same quality of goods and services without any interruption.

Business assets may qualify for certain reliefs on death and preserving these reliefs is an important part of the succession planning process as the concern for most is that they have worked so hard to build their company. Preparing a full plan ensures that there is business continuity and the owners or their successors in title are protected.

It is also important for business owners to consider the consequences, should they be unable to make decisions. Business owners can make business LPAs which deal specifically with the needs of the business. This provides the owners with peace of mind that should they lose capacity the day to day running of the business should be unaffected.

Next Steps?

If you require assistance in dealing with your estate and planning for the future, our specialist team are available to discuss your instructions and requirements with you. Our offices are open for covid-19 safe appointments, alternatively we can discuss your instructions via telephone, video call or email.

Contact Details for Wills, Trusts and Probate Team: 0161 9269969 or WTP@mlplaw.co.uk

Amy Winehouse’s Estate

Amy Winehouse was a talented singer who sadly passed away at her home in Camden, London at the age of 27. The cause of Amy’s death was alcohol intoxication, which was later ruled by a coroner to have been around 5 times higher than the legal drink drive limit.

Did Amy Winehouse leave a Will?

It was initially believed that Amy Winehouse had made a Will in around 2009, however, it was later found that Amy had never executed her Will. In the circumstances, this meant that Amy died intestate, as she did not leave a valid Will at the date of her death.

What happened to Amy’s estate under the rules of intestacy?

As Amy Winehouse passed away without leaving a valid Will at the date of her death, this meant that her estate (consisting of her assets and liabilities at the date of her death) were dealt with in accordance with the rules of intestacy which are contained within Part 4 of the Administration of Estates Act 1925.

In order to distribute an estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy, an administrator had to be appointed by the Probate Registry in order to distribute Amy’s estate accordingly. The administrator of Amy’s estate was her father, Mitch Winehouse.

Once Amy’s father was appointed as the administrator of her estate, this meant that he had to distribute her estate in accordance with the rules of intestacy as follows:-

To Amy’s spouse or civil partner at the date of her death– Amy and Blake Fielder-Civil had divorced in 2009 (around 2 years prior to Amy’s death), this meant that Blake Fielder-Civil was no longer entitled to be a beneficiary of Amy’s estate. This is because following a divorce being finalised, this means that the ex-spouse/ex-civil partner is treated as predeceasing them.

Blake Fielder-Civil looked to bring a £1,000,000.00 claim against Amy’s estate in 2019, with additional demands of a monthly allowance from her estate. It is reported that Blake Fielder-Civil had previously received the sum of £250,000.00 from Amy as part of their divorce settlement in 2009. Although, Blake’s lawyers believe that if the £250,000.00 was not specified as part of a clean break in the divorce documentation, then, it is possible that Blake be able to bring a claim against Amy’s estate.

To children– Amy did not have any children at the date of her death.

To Amy’s parents– This meant that the entirety of Amy’s estate of around £3,000,000.00 was split equally between her parents, Mitch and Janis Winehouse.6

What would have happened to Amy’s estate under the rules of intestacy, if she had not been survived by her parents?

In the event that Amy’s parents had not survived her, this would have resulted in further family relations being considered as beneficiaries of her estate, as follows:-

To Amy’s siblings– Amy’s brother would have been the sole beneficiary of her estate. In the event that Amy’s brother had passed away before her, his own children would have been the beneficiaries of Amy’s estate by default.

To half-siblings.

To grandparents.

To Amy’s aunts and uncles.

To half-aunts and half-uncles.  

If you would like to discuss making a Will to ensure that your loved ones, friends etc. will benefit from your estate and, to ensure that your estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes. Please contact our Wills, Trusts and Probate department who will be delighted to assist you with this and any other future planning needs and requirements which you may have on 0161 926 9969 or by email at wtp@mlplaw.co.uk. Our Wills, Trusts and Probate department will also be delighted to assist you with any worries or queries which you may have, in relation to your existing Will.