The new docuseries, “Tiger King”, has been the new 2020 hot topic for many. You may be wondering why you are reading a legal article on Wills that is talking about Tiger King. If you have seen the show, you will know exactly why. Spoilers alert!
One of the many eccentric characters, Carole Baskin, had some mysterious circumstances surrounding her wealth. Her former husband, Don Lewis, had suddenly disappeared and the Will that was presented when distributing Don’s estate left everything to Carole. Nothing was left to the daughters of his former marriage. Watching through the lens of a private client lawyer, all the elements of an estate dispute were there. It was the perfect storm.
Right enough, there has been, and continues to be, many disputes and claims arising out of these circumstances. Like many estate disputes it seems to have been a long drawn out process. In recent news, the daughters have claimed to have found evidence that their father’s Will was forged, and that they intend on bringing the matter to Court.
Lessons to be learnt
Although Tiger King is a show made for entertainment and lots of what is claimed on the show should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt, there are some genuine lessons to be learnt from this particular scenario. It serves as an important reminder for us to have Wills in place, so that we can ensure that our last wishes on how we want our estates distributed are made known to our beneficiaries.
As private client lawyers, we have come across incidents where children from a previous marriage were left out of the Deceased’s Will, causing conflict between the Deceased’s widow and the children. Such delicate situations must be handled with a well thought out Will. In the absence of one or the use of an outdated one, not only will both parties be burdened with the loss of a loved one, but the lack of acknowledgment in a Will can be seen as a personal reflection on their involvement in the Deceased’s life.
When conflicts become contentious between beneficiaries, the time, legal costs, and emotions surrounding all parties will become more costly than if a tailor drafted Will was in place to take into account such issues in the first place.
How often should a Will be updated?
It is important to remember that making a Will is not a once in a lifetime event. It is paramount to occasionally review your current life situation and decide whether your Will needs updating. Generally, it is advisable that a Will be reviewed and updated every five years or so. This is to ensure that any major life events or changes in circumstances are accurately reflected and that the testator can have adequate control over his or her estate. Having an out of date Will could almost be equivalent to having no Will at all and may lead to disputes over the distribution of the testator’s estate.
How to update your Will?
There are usually two ways to keep your Will up-to-date. One option is that you simply make a new one. The new Will can contain a clause specifying that your previous Wills have been revoked, and this document supersedes all previous ones.
Alternatively, you could add a Codicil. This is an instrument attached to a Will for adding to, altering, explaining or confirming a Will previously made. Codicils are usually reserved for times when a testator does not wish to go through the process of making an entirely new Will. However, under Hong Kong law’s Wills Ordinance (Cap. 30) Section 5, the due execution of a Codicil is the same as that of making a Will. As a result, it is usually preferable to simply execute a new Will to prevent having several documents stating how you would like your estate distributed.
With a multi-million US dollar estate, Don Lewis should have taken a more active role in updating his Will. The docuseries showed that before his disappearance, it was discovered that he was very unhappy with his marriage with Carole Baskin, and was even in the process of filing a restraining order against her. From this we could perhaps assume that his final wishes probably did not involve leaving everything to Carole.
In conclusion, you should regularly update your Will and ask experienced lawyers for specific advice in preparing it, so that it can properly reflect your intentions and any changes in life circumstances. A well-drafted Will can bring clarity and closure to all intended beneficiaries.
Our Private Client, Probate & Trust team at Hugill & Ip has extensive experience in dealing with Wealth and Estate Planning issues – so kindly get in touch with our solicitors to find out how we can help.
This article is for information purposes only. Its contents do not constitute legal advice and readers should not regard this article as a substitute for detailed advice in individual instances.