10th Mar 2017

Charlemagne left me nothing in his Will, what can I do about it?

You may have seen the recent story that the regal connections of the current Landlord of Eastenders’ Queen Vic, Danny Dyer go beyond a fictional pub and he has in fact his own royal lineage - a direct descendant of Edward III no less! Well, as anyone who attended the excellent Berwins Salon North last night will tell you - I can go one better. I am descended from the “Father of Europe” himself –  Charlemagne the Great. And for that matter, so are you…

Of Royal Descent

One of the speakers – author, broadcaster and scientist Dr Adam Rutherford –  shared a stunning and fascinating presentation explaining how in fact every European alive can trace back to Charlemagne.

As you may know Charlemagne lived and reigned in Western Europe round about the year 800 when he became the first Holy Roman Emperor. Whilst he had only three legitimate sons he had many illegitimate children – a total of at least 18! As the family tree extended across the continent over the interceding 1,200 or so years, descendants have spread far and wide, meaning a wide web has developed. It means that in Charlemagne we share a 40 x Great Grandfather – in short there’s little bit of Charlemagne is in all of us.

Heir to the Throne?

After talk, one of my colleagues joked that in conversation he’d found me a new client – someone who wanted advice, as his 40 x Great Grandfather had left him nothing in his will – he wanted to make a claim!

But, alas we can’t expect to receive an orb and sceptre from our ‘inheritance’ any time soon. We are all far too late to bring a claim against Charlemagne’s estate but what can you do if you are left nothing in a will when you might have had a reasonable expectation of inheriting?

Claiming Inheritance

It is an issue which comes up and one which it’s important to give careful consideration to if you feel you may have been affected.

The first point to be aware of is that you have complete freedom of testamentary disposition in England and Wales. In other words you can do what you like with your estate and leave gifts to whoever you want to. It can therefore be difficult to challenge a valid will.

However, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 provides for claims to be made in certain circumstances. Spouses, civil partners and cohabitees of over two years can make a claim if they believe the will does not make reasonable financial provision for them. Each case is dependent upon its own facts and the court will look at all the circumstances surrounding the will, including the effect that a successful claim will have on the chosen beneficiaries.

Others, such as the deceased’s children can bring claims but they would only be entitled to such reasonable financial provision as is required for their maintenance, a subtle but very important difference to what a spouse or civil partner et cetera might be awarded. The devil is always in the detail in these types of cases and it is essential that you get proper legal advice at the outset.

Claims are of course time-limited and need to be commenced within 6 months of the grant of probate. We may be too late to make a claim on Charlemagne, Edward III or indeed any other members of our newly found royal pedigree, but for people concerned about issues closer to home, recourse is an option.

Stephen Root is a Director at Berwins with over 30 years of legal experience. 

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