Learn from George Michael: Are your loved ones protected by your will?
24/06/2019 - Attwells Solicitors LLP
George Michael’s death on Christmas Day 2016 left his friends, family and millions of fans around the world devastated.
When you die the contents of your will becomes public and this is the same for you or I as it is for millionaire rock legends. Earlier this month the executors of George Michael’s estate lodged the will and probate documents with the Probate Registry. The will makes some specific gifts to his father, other family members and a charity but the remainder (which is the vast majority of his estate) is to be divided between his two sisters. His long-term partner Fadi Fawaz has not been left anything under the will and is reported to be considering making a legal challenge.
It surprises many people to learn that we have two competing laws surrounding the making of wills. On the one hand, the law says you are free to leave your estate to whoever you want. However, in 1975 Parliament passed the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants ) Act which states that certain classes of people can apply to the court if they have not had “reasonable provision” made for them in a will.
Mr Fawaz may be eligible to make a claim if he can establish that he had lived in the same household as George Michael for two continuous years as husband or civil partners even though they did not formally marry or enter into a civil partnership.
It is important to note the definition refers to same “household” and not the same “house”. With Mr Michael owning several properties and having international commitments it could be possible to show they lived in one household even if they spent time living in separate properties.
If Mr Fawaz cannot satisfy the Court under the above definition then he may still be able to challenge the will on the basis that he was “financially dependent” on Mr Michael and that reasonable provision should be made for him.
These disputes are complex and very dependent on the facts. Mediation is often a better way of resolving these disputes than going to court. This is particularly true in this case when court hearings would see huge media attention and would go into every detail of the relationship of Mr Fawaz and Mr Michael.
Our Senior Solicitor, Edward Powell regularly advise potential beneficiaries on these types of claims as well as advising estates when they are facing claims. Please get in touch with Edward on 01206 239755, if you need any advice in relation to inheritance disputes.