Preparing a Will is an important factor for anyone and undertaking professional advice is something that should always be considered to prevent problems occurring and possible disputes.
In this case an elderly woman who was left nothing by her millionaire partner’s estate has since been saved from poverty by a senior Judge.
Joan Thompson lived with her late partner, Wynford Hodge for 42 years until he died last year (2017). Mr Hodge, who owner Parsonage Farm and Caravan Park, along with other properties and land, was worth over £1.5 million when he died.
His Will written in December 2016 left Mrs Thompson without a penny, instead bequeathing everything to two tenants who had worked on the caravan park and been kind to him in his final years.
In a letter of wishes attached to his Will, Mr Hodge stated he did not want Joan or her children to inherit any of his fortune. In the letter he described Joan as ‘financially comfortable’ and he said that she had ‘her own finances’ and would not benefit from his money.
However, the Judge said that this was a mistake and Mrs Thompson had in fact been left with only a modest savings of around £2,500. She was currently living on benefits in a nursing home, and had wanted to return to the family estate where she had friends.
In a rare decision, Judge Jarman ruled that Mr Hodge failed to make reasonable provision for his long-term partner and did not match up to his responsibilities. Judge Jarman awarded Mrs Thompson a cottage from the estate worth £225,000 and a further £190,000 in cash to pay for the cottage’s refurbishment and to provide her with reasonable financial support.
The High Court heard how Mr Hodge, who suffered from prostate cancer, made more than 10 Wills prior to his death. In hospital shortly before he died he told Mrs Thompson ‘not to worry as she would be well looked after’.
However, in his latest Will signed December 2016, Mr Hodge left everything to two of his tenants. Working as subsistence market gardeners at the caravan park, Karla Evans and Agon Berisha, inherited Mr Hodge’s entire estate under the terms of the Will.
The tenants, parents of two young children, rented a house from Mr Hodge, doing unpaid errands for him and helping him with his shopping. When asked, Ms Evans said she did not want to be a millionaire and would be happy with an annual holiday and enough money to bring up her kids.
Judge Jarman stated that, even after his ruling granting assets to Mrs Thompson, the couple would receive ‘by far the major part’ of the deceased’s estate. The belief that there had been a ‘mistake’ in failing to provide any financial support to Mrs Thompson was supported by the facts.
Mrs Thompson had moved to the caravan park in the 1970s, and soon later into the farmhouse with Mr Hodge. She worked on the caravan park without pay and helped care for Mr Hodge’s late mother. The couple were together for over 40 years, and after Mr Hodge’s health began to fail, she became his main carer.
Mrs Thompson had herself suffered with ill health over the last 12 years and since Mr Hodge’s death, her only income has been benefits of little more than £1,000 per month.
In making his ruling, Judge Jarman said that, ‘by disinheriting her, Mr Hodge had failed to meet the obligations and responsibilities’ he owed to her.
As mentioned it is fundamentally important to ensure that your affairs and estate are in order. It is a difficult time for families and following a death it can cause significant strains on the family members. With this in mind it is important that proper records are taken of the wishes and set out to ensure that the Will and any instructions are complied with and prevent cases such as this.
Proper legal advice should be given to those who have dependants and people that rely upon them.
An up to date Will and thoroughly planned out wishes provides you with security that it is clear, and should prevent circumstances as in this case.
This is all the more reason to contact a solicitor to have a Will written up. Our team of experts are able to take you through the process to guarantee you the service is tailored specifically to your needs and advise on all suitable areas.
Dated: 10th April 2018 by Samantha Kennedy