Below we have set out some of the real-life situations we have come across in practice, and the problems that can arise for families.


Where no Will has been made the Estate will be distributed according to the rules of Intestacy.


When Angela married Brian he already had 3 children from his previous marriage. Following his marriage to Angela he did not make a Will. Several years later Brian died suddenly, not having made a Will. Under the intestacy provisions that applied at the time Angela was entitled to the first £125,000 of the estate outright together with personal belongings. She was also entitled to the income arising from half of the residue in trust for her life, the other half of the residue went straight to the 3 children of Brian's first marriage. As a result Angela was forced to sell the family home in order to settle the claims of Brian's children from his first marriage.


Dai Thomas was a retired miner who had saved throughout his life and amassed a tidy nest egg. Dai never married and had no children or brothers or sisters. Towards the end of his life Dai suffered from considerable ill health and at this time he was cared for by a cousin and her husband who took him in when he was unwell and cooked for him and made sure that he was cared for. Whilst it was generally accepted that Dai would have wanted to benefit this caring cousin for her help towards him during his lifetime unfortunately he did not make a Will. Accordingly, his estate was distributed between 3 cousins on his mother's side of the family and four cousins on his father's side of the family, some of whom he had never met before and only one of whom had any real influence and support in his life.


A dispute arose when Gaynor died and left no Will. There was an argument between family members as to whether she would have wanted burial or cremation. Subsequently when it came to distribution of family mementos, pictures, ornaments and jewellery there was again a family dispute in relation to the division of those items which resulted in the administrator having no choice but to arrange for a house clearance and all family items were sold at auction.



Gwyneth and her husband owned their property jointly and Gwyneth was in her 70's when she was admitted to an EMI Care Home suffering from Vascular Dementia, having lost capacity. She and had her husband had, some years previously, made mutual Wills leaving their property to each other and then to their son. Sometime after entering the Care Home Gwyneth's husband died suddenly and under the terms of his Will his estate and the house passed to Gwyneth. The house was sold and the capital value in the house was used to pay Gwyneth's Care Fees until the balance had reduced to about £24,000. There was nothing that the son could do to avoid this situation, however, had he taken advice earlier then his father could, whilst he was alive, have severed the tenancy on the family home and left all his interest in the home and his cash to his son so that Gwyneth's assets would have been limited to one half of the value of the property.



Following the death of Edward and the engagement of a local funeral director the family advised that Edward had expressed a wish that he wanted to be buried in the family burial plot at the local cemetery. Unfortunately, the Deed to the plot was registered in his father's name and accordingly the children were obliged to attend at the local authority office to make a formal application for the transfer of the Deed to the family plot and to fill in lots of documentation and all this immediately following the death of their father.



Anthony's brother and his wife and 6 year old son were involved in a serious car accident as a result of which Anthony's brother and his wife died leaving their 6 year old son orphaned. There was no Will in place and as such the burning question arose as to who would take responsibility for the little boy. Unfortunately, each set of grandparents considered that they would be best equipped to look after the little boy and there was an argument that developed which no doubt was exacerbated by the grief that everyone felt at the tragedy. Ultimately through a process of delicate negotiation it was determined that the little boy should be adopted by Anthony and his wife who had a little boy of similar age and all parties were glad to agree to this proposal. This difficult and emotionally upsetting situation could however have been easily avoided had there been a Will where guardians had been appointed to care for any minor children.



Unfortunately Trevor's wife was admitted to a care home, due initially to a physical frailty but very soon thereafter lost mental capacity and her bank accounts with, Barclays and Santander, were frozen. Trevor had no power of attorney in place and was therefore unable to access his wife's bank accounts and ended up having to meet considerable costs on behalf of his wife until such time as he was able to make an application to the Court of Protection to be appointed his wife's deputy. This process took almost 9 months to complete and proved to be very expensive.


Betty was snatched by social workers against the wishes of her daughter, her former carer. Social workers arrived with police at Betty's property and a battering ram was used to break down the door to remove the 86 year old woman suffering from dementia from her daughter's house. The story was covered by the media back in 2009 with pictures of Betty being taken from her house in her wheelchair with a towel thrown over her head. It seems that social services did not agree with Betty's daughter that it was in Betty's interests to be cared for by her daughter in a specially converted room of her daughter's house. The will of social services over ruled the wish of the daughter, however, had Betty created a health and welfare lasting power of attorney social services could have been prevented from making the care decisions and Betty's daughter could have been appointed as the attorney with responsibility in this area.


If a couple's assets are held in separate Bank or Building Society accounts, often for good tax efficient reasons, then this can cause a problem if one party loses capacity as the other spouse cannot access the funds of the other without making a long, complicated and expensive application to the Court of Protection. If a Power of Attorney had been put in place earlier then this hassle could have been avoided.


Hazel's mum lost capacity and Hazel obtained an order from the Court of Protection to become deputy to her mother, or to become her 'Receiver' (as it used to be called)She recounted to me how terrible she felt about having to account to the Court of Protection for expenditure when buying her mum vests and other clothing whilst she was in the care home and how she was required to deliver detailed financial statements of account to the Court on an annual basis.