Category Archives: Legal Matters

X marks the spot: Legacies outside the box…

Having been raised on a televisual and literary diet of capers, adventures and swashbuckling, we at legalmatters remain slightly disappointed to find that the amount of Will legacies involving treasure maps are rather thin on the ground. Setting aside the compliance and logistical headaches, we have always been a fan of a deceased individual setting out a series of tasks, each one more cunning than the last, in a bid for their relatives to race against the clock to discover their worldly goods buried in a field just outside of Totnes, or similar.

Now with around 60% of the UK population currently without a valid Will, that leaves a hefty chunk of UK citizens with no clear instructions as to what happens on their death. If you are one of this majority, perhaps you are looking for some inspiration. Maybe the traditional “all to spouse and then to my children” route is not for you. Well whether it’s non-standard gifts, or unusual methods of dispatch, we have collated some of the more colourful published Will terms out there as food for thought.

Lis-bon vivant

As near to film-script worthy as we have come across, is that of the fabulously named late Portuguese Aristocrat Luis Carlos de Noronha Cabral da Camara. The childless bachelor randomly picked 70 names from the Lisbon phone book to be the beneficiaries of his considerable estate.

Determined that nothing should go to the state, the ‘wealthy loner’ left his 12-room apartment in central Lisbon, a house near the northern town of Guimaraes, a couple of healthy bank accounts, a luxury car and two motorbikes to be divided amongst his random heirs in 2007. Each walked away with several thousand euros worth of legacy.

Hair Apparent

Wealthy Brixton resident Henry Budd left the sum of £200,000 in trust for his two sons Edward and William back in 1862. The overriding proviso being that neither of them grow a moustache or their inheritance would be forfeited.

That same decade, a Will prepared in for a Mr. Fleming, an upholsterer of Pimlico, left £10 each to each of his male employees that did not sport moustaches. Those who persisted in wearing the facial hair would see their legacy reduced by 50% to £5 each.

Staying with the theme of the pursuit of the hirsute, Napoleon Bonaparte‘s last Will and Testament directed that his head be shaved and his hair be distributed among his friends. Whilst not exactly the most traditional of gifts, should any of the original recipients have kept hold of their bequests, they may be more generous that initially thought. A lock of the ex-Emperor’s hair found in a house in Camberley, Surrey sold at auction in 2005 for £9,000 (including auction fees). That same year, a single strand of hair from Napoleon’s head, sold for £130 at auction in Dorset.

One man’s Treasure

Scottish Novelist and Victorian teller of tales, Robert Louis Stevenson left a jewel of his own to his good friend, Annie Ide. The Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde author bequeathed his very own birthday of 13 November. Annie’s fell on 25 December, Christmas Day and she had always felt cheated. The great man himself died in 1894 whilst struggling to open a bottle of wine with his wife on the island of Samoa. There are surely worse ways to go…

Floral Tribute

Celebrated Comedian and Actor in the 1930-60’s, Jack Benny, was also a true romantic to the end. Following his death in 1974, he directed in his Will that a large sum of money was left to a local florist. However, the Will went on to stipulate that the florist was to send a single long-stemmed red rose his wife of 47 years, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life. By the time Mary died she had received over 3,000 red roses.

Gallows’ Humour

And to end on rather an uncharitable note, a list compiled by London genealogists Fraser and Fraser ranked the Will of Annie Langabeer as being number one for most bizarre legacies. On her death in 1932 at the age of 59, she left her brother-in-law Daniel Jones, 2shillings and 6d to buy a rope to hang himself with.

It should be noted that not all of these requests were successfully carried out. If you would like advice for drawing up yours or your clients’ wishes, do get in touch with one of our solicitors who would be delighted to help enshrine your wildest dreams (where legally possible)! Call us on 01243 216900 or email us at info@legalmatters.co.uk.

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All Power Corrupts?

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) have been getting their fair share of column inches this summer, mainly due to well publicised comments from former Senior Judge Denzil Lush made last month on BBC Radio 4 (if there ever was a better name for a Judge then legalmatters has yet to hear it).

Following on from his retirement from the Court of Protection (COP), Judge Lush recently shared his views that LPAs were fraught with opportunities for abuse. Specifically, he commented that due to the ‘devastating effect’ it can have on family relationships, he would never choose to sign an LPA himself but rather would instead prefer the costly alternative of a court appointed Deputyship.

LPAs enable a trusted individual to make decisions on behalf of someone who is unable to do so or has lost mental capacity. They can be a vital element of later life planning when considered and drafted effectively, providing peace of mind for those who need it the most.

After 20 years at the coalface of the COP, Judge Lush is undoubtedly one of the most respected figures in the profession (and, as it happens, a thoroughly nice chap) but whilst his comments are certainly food for thought, it is important to consider them in context.

In light of the 2.4 million LPAs registered in England and Wales, around 6,000 cases concerning abuse have been brought to the courts; a comparatively tiny proportion. Having spent two decades dealing with the fallout of family disputes and fraudulent behavior, Judge Lush is understandably cynical of the process, in the same way that very few Personal Injury lawyers cycle a pushbike to work. They are more wary than anyone of the risks and consequences.

But to discount LPAs entirely is unhelpful and unfair. With the risks he highlights, there are also great benefits for vulnerable individuals of any age, providing them with both stability and peace of mind knowing that decisions will be made by someone that they trust.

It seems instead that rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater, the issue is perhaps not ‘don’t appoint an attorney’ but instead ‘don’t appoint the wrong person as attorney’. If an individual does find themselves in a position where they do not have an appropriate (and above all, trusted) friend or family member to appoint, there is always the option of appointing a professional attorney to undertake that role in any case.

LPAs are important documents delegating major powers and should not be taken lightly.

The relaxing of the safeguards that were previously in place have undoubtedly exacerbated the issue of misuse. But this just strengthens the argument that these types of documents should be implemented with proper qualified, regulated, legal advice.

Rather than focus on the negatives of the LPAs, it has instead been suggested that the public should be educated as to their importance. Whilst their negative impact will often make headlines (goodness only knows the Daily Mail loves a scoop), cases arise every day where an LPA could have prevented a dispute ending up in court. Increasing awareness would improve attitudes towards later life planning, as well as encouraging people like you to understand the role of an attorney. In turn, this would lead to greater and more careful contemplation when you come to making the decision, therefore reducing the risk of problems arising in the first place.

The most effective way to ensure that you’re making the right decision is to seek professional advice. Not something that can be rushed, LPAs require careful consideration and will be unique to the circumstances of the individual, accounting for specific needs and requirements.

The cynical among you may find it interesting to learn that these comments were made in the foreword to his new book on the subject. Reports that his next publication will be called ‘Crystal Ball and other reasons why I don’t need a Will’ are yet to be confirmed.

As professionals, Accountants, Financial Advisers and Wealth Managers are often asked for advice which may be outside their area of specialism. As well as guiding you through the process, talking to an expert at legalmatters can help clear up any concerns you or your clients may have.

Working collaboratively and effectively with Accountants, Financial Advisers and Wealth Managers is a key aspect of the legal services that legalmatters provides. We believe that clients benefit greatly from combined financial and legal advice.

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