A disgruntled Oxford University professor has launched legal action after he was allegedly disinherited by his mother after she fell in love with a female lawyer 37 years younger than her.
Professor Christopher Gosden was unaware his mother Jean Weddell sold a £1.25 million (AU$2.20 million, US$1.61 million) home that had previously been set up in a trust fund for him, according to The Telegraph. When his mother died at the age of 84 in 2013, Gosden discovered the Kennington home in south London had been sold in 2010 and just £5,000 remained in his mother’s estate.
According to the publication, Weddell changed her will when she fell in love with Wendy Cook – who she entered a civil partnership with in 2007. Most of the funds of her estate were gifted to her new partner, while Gosden was left with nothing.
A legal battle is underway to determine whether the solicitor responsible for drawing up the trust agreement, of which Gosden and his wife were trustees, was to blame for leaving a loophole which allowed Weddell to sell the house without her son’s knowledge.
The solicitors deny being in the wrong and that Gosden should have sued his mother if he was unhappy and denied the purpose of the trust was to transfer the property to Gosden when Weddell passed away.
Unfortunately, estate battles such as this are all too common and this isn’t the only financial family fued to make headlines in recent months. Earlier this year, a New Zealand man said he was left “upset” and “betrayed” after his long-term partner died and only left him her ashes in her will.
Steven Moon had been with Mary Doyle for 27 years and cared for her towards the end of her life when she was diagnosed with cancer, according to Stuff.co.nz. She’d also faced a series of other health battles throughout the relationship and was in a wheelchair.
Moon was so shocked Doyle failed to leave him a cent in her will that he took the matter to Auckland’s High Court to try to claw back some of the money she’d bequeathed her family. In the end, Moon was paid NZ$300,000 (AU$275,343, US$211,080) out of Doyle’s estate, even though Doyle’s family argued the pair weren’t in a de facto relationship.
While family arguments surrounding wills often make the news, CRH Law lawyer Brian Herd recently told Starts at 60 that wills being challenged and changed by the courts are not in the majority and stressed the importance of making sure your affairs are legally in order before you die. He said there would actually be far more complications if wills weren’t placed at all.
One of the easiest ways to reduce challenger’s success is to compile a document called a Statement of Wishes. This sets out a person’s reasons behind a will, such as not providing for someone. It can be used in court to explain a person’s wishes after they have died.
Other tips from Herd include spending everything before you die, putting as much as you can into superannuation or family trusts to reduce the size of your personal estate and to pay for good legal advice. Even for those who aren’t concerned about money ending up in the wrong hands, creating a will is incredibly important and should be thought through carefully.
“Think about whether you would like to give specific things to specific people and why,” he said. “Then who you would like to give the rest of your estate amongst the many potential candidates including spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, charities – the world is your oyster as they say.”