A recent decision in the estate of the late Maureen McLean has highlighted the importance of careful estate planning, particularly if you have a blended family or situations where there are complex family dynamics.
Maureen’s three stepchildren failed to overturn a Will that she had made after the death of her husband which left her estate (and that of her late husband) to her only child, cutting out her stepchildren. The stepchildren held that an earlier Will which left Maureen and her husband’s estates to each other, and then equally between all four children were mutual wills and thus could not be changed. Mutual wills are a type of will that is made by two or more individuals, typically married or in a committed relationship, who agree to dispose of their property in a certain way. These wills are binding and cannot be changed or revoked without the consent of all parties involved. The main purpose of mutual wills is to ensure that the wishes of both parties are respected and that their property is distributed according to their agreed-upon plan. Mutual wills are often used to provide financial security for the surviving spouse or partner, and to ensure that their assets are ultimately passed on to their chosen beneficiaries.
Mutual wills are rarely used due to their inflexibility after one party has died, however property trust wills are a type of estate planning tool that can be particularly beneficial for blended families. In these situations, it is common for individuals to have children from previous relationships and a desire to provide for the needs of both their current spouse or partner and their own children. Property trust wills allow individuals to establish a trust that holds assets and specifies how they are to be distributed upon their death. This can ensure that the surviving spouse or partner is provided for during their lifetime, while also guaranteeing that the remaining assets are ultimately passed on to the intended beneficiaries, such as the individual’s children. Property trust wills can help blended families create a clear and fair plan for the distribution of their assets, minimising the potential for disputes and ensuring that their wishes are carried out. If you would like any more information please contact our Private Client solicitor Claire Ryder on 01482 974515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(McLean v McLean, 2023 EWHC 1863 Ch).