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Corrie covers Contentious Probate

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The recent death of the Coronation Street character Aiden Connor by suicide has seen the writers and actors of the popular Northern based soap opera explore different aspects of the grief suffered by his family and friends as they come to terms with his actions. 

This has helped raise awareness of mental health issues, particularly in men where the UK statistics of suicide are alarmingly high and has given charities another platform to remind people of helplines, services and the importance of communicating.  The Samaritans have worked with ITV on this storyline and can be contacted at www.samaritans.org.

Another issue was raised in the two episodes aired on Wednesday night (16th May) when his family discovered his Last Will and Testament; unhappy with his wishes they are seeking the advice of a local solicitor as to whether they can challenge his decisions.

As experienced Will Dispute solicitors, based on the facts (we are currently privy to), we would make the following observations and comments:

  1. The validity of the Will – Aiden made his Will relatively recently, though it hasn’t been made clear at this stage exactly when the Will was drafted and signed.  The first issue to consider is whether the Will compliant with the Wills Act (ie was it properly drafted and executed). If for example the Will has only been signed by one witness it will not be valid and his estate would pass under the Intestacy Rules (which as we will see below would result in his new born receiving his estate).  It has been revealed that Aiden had written a suicide note four months earlier suggesting that he had contemplated taking his life sooner.  He only changed his mind because he was eligible to donate a kidney to his sister who was in urgent need for a transplant.  Aiden’s mental capacity at the time the Will was written, if it was around the same period, is something that would warrant exploring.
  2. The beneficiaries – the main reason for the family contesting the Will is that Aiden left the shares in his business to an employee, rather than to his father or sister who had built the family business up and were still actively involved in the running of it. It would be worth considering if they had worked to their detriment in the belief that they would ultimately benefit from the business as this may result in them having a claim against the estate. Further investigation may also be warranted to consider if there had been any undue influence from the beneficiary. In a further twist, as there only can be in soap land, Aiden became a father just before his death.  This currently isn’t known to his family, but is highly relevant. Undoubtedly the daughter could bring a claim against Aiden’s estate (via her mother), if the Will is found to be valid as there is currently no provision for her maintenance.
  3. Seeking specialist advice – the family consulted their local solicitor for initial advice and even though we haven’t seen the full extent of his recommendations yet, we do agree with the immediate response to the family’s request to destroy the Will; the answer is always ‘DON’T’.  Regular viewers of Corrie, will know that this solicitor is relatively inexperienced and is not a specialist in this field. Along with his Partner, we have seen that he also handles Family, Criminal, Private Client and Conveyancing matters. That is not to say that an ‘all round solicitor’ cannot deal with such cases but our recommendation would be to seek advice from a specialist Will dispute solicitor.  As with many professions, solicitors do tend to specialise and as such it is beneficial to instruct a solicitor who is particularly knowledgeable about the intricacies of the law in this area.  It is not usual for solicitors to refer cases to another solicitor because of their expertise, or there was a conflict of interest, for example if they had also written the Will.

Serial dramas are a work of fiction but the situation that the Connor family find themselves in is not of itself particularly unusual. Successfully contesting a Will can be a complicated process and we would encourage anyone finding themselves in a similar position to seek professional specialist advice.

Jennifer McGuinness is an Associated Solicitor at FDR Law and can be contacted on 01925 230000 or by email Jennifer.McGuinness@fdrlaw.co.uk