Although you might imagine that death would mean the end of any potential claims associated with divorce, this is not necessarily the case. Earlier this year millionaire, Dale Vince, notoriously lost his fight to prevent a former partner from making a legal claim on his fortune more than 30 years after they had divorced. This was in spite of the fact that he was not a millionaire at the time of the divorce, making his millions long after their separation. The difficulty for Mr Vince was that he was unable to produce a binding court order or final financial settlement outlining the division of assets following the divorce. The case has underlined the fact there is no time limit for potential maintenance claims if there is no evidence of a final and binding divorce settlement.
This landmark case poses problems not just for divorced couples – it also raises issues for executors dealing with an estate where the owner has been through a divorce.
In 2014 the Office of National Statistics stated that 34% of marriages are expected to end in divorce by the 20th wedding anniversary. Changes in traditional families, and estates complicated with step children and second families can be very problematical for executors. There has been a 700% increase in disputes over wills in the last five years with many claims originating from former partners, step children, siblings or half-siblings. The lack of a time limit on maintenance claims may put some executors at risk of serious legal or financial claims. If there hasn’t been a final settlement drawn up following the end of a marriage a claim from an earlier partner could arise after an estate has been distributed – and in this instance the executor would have to foot the bill because this legally binding role carries unlimited and personal liability.
If someone has asked you to act as their executor and you are aware of a previous marriage or long-term relationship, or children outside the existing relationship, it is essential to find out if all financial settlements have been fully resolved and that their will takes account of any complications, before you accept the role.
About the author
Guy has worked in the insurance profession for over thirty years, initially in the London Insurance market as a broker and subsequently as a Lloyd’s Members’ Agent. He set up private client insurance brokers Castleacre in 2005. Castleacre is the first company in the UK to offer indemnity insurance to lay executors – in direct response to clients who had become executors but could not find suitable cover on the market. If you have would like to know more about executor liability insurance or to contact Guy click here. If you wish to view the Executors Insurance blog click here.