Families left at war over celebrity wills
Disputes over the wills of those in the public eye are becoming ever more prevalent. Celebrity estates of thousands or even millions of pounds are frequently becoming the centre of bitter disputes between family members, with asset distribution leading to rifts dividing those left behind.
Most recently reported as having a problem with a celebrity will is the son of the late Paul Daniels. The magician died in March of this year, leaving his estate worth £1.5 million to his wife, Debbie McGee.
Paul Junior has accused McGee – his stepmother – of failing to support him following his father’s passing. Junior, 56, claims she left him jobless after closing a shop set up by him and his father, as well as cutting off his phone contract, despite saying she would “look after him” and his brothers. Instead, he mentioned, “the only person she has looked after is herself”.
Junior became estranged from his father in the mid-1990s with the pair only reconciling when he was given a 12-month community order following a conviction of cultivating £89,000 worth of marijuana. He claims the event was something that allowed them to be “father and son again”. The relationship with his step-mother, however, remains strained and he stated that he no longer wants anything to do with her.
A spokesperson for Ms McGee had described the claims as “inaccurate”. Ms McGee now resides in the couple’s Berkshire home worth £2.5 million, which was transferred into her name prior to her husband’s death.
People are living longer, multiple marriages and thus greatly extended families are becoming more common. Challenges to wills have naturally increased as a result.
“When making a will, it is important to give thought to the implications of how children from different marriages should be provided for, and that your wishes of what you want to happen and why are clearly recorded. A clear record of why a certain family member has been left out of the will may reduce the chances of a challenge to the will from the outset.”
Pike further highlights the ability for certain categories of person such as spouses, partners and children being able to dispute the will should they consider they have not properly been provided for. She does however call attention to the emotional nature of will disputes.
“I always advise people to think really carefully before proceeding. Once someone raises even the prospect of disputing the will, it immediately sets families against each other at a time when they are already distressed by the loss of a loved one.”