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Family Feuds

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Twentieth Century Fox have recently instructed the global market research company One Poll (www.onepoll.com) to undertake research.  The research was carried out amongst 3,000 adults and focus on family feuds and arguments.  According to the poll, nearly 20 million Britons are not speaking to members of their family after arguments.  Quite remarkably 40% of people surveyed said they are currently feuding with someone in their family.  Arguments tend to be in respect of lending money, favouritism and disliking a relative’s partner. 

You may find it strange that a member of the Clarion Family Team is blogging about this.  However, we see this frequently when working on family cases.

It is amazing how many times parents do not like the partner that their child has chosen, and this often leads to families not speaking for months, if not years.  People always seem to choose their partner over family in feuds and we see this a lot.  Further, arguments over money again are a common example of family feuds.

One of the increasing areas of work we are seeing is in relation to wealth planning when relationships are in early stages, be it a Cohabitation Agreement for people moving in together or a Pre-nuptial Agreement for those embarking on a marriage.  With the makeup of families differing significantly, with many people being on second or third marriages; many families having brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters and step-brothers and sisters etc, we are becoming a nation of increasingly complex family structures.  It is therefore hardly surprising that people argue as there are now different, competing attitudes within a family.  Take for example the following scenario:

Mr Smith (not a real client) has been divorced twice.  He has now met, finally, the love of his life, Mrs Brown, who has been divorced twice.  She is pregnant with his child.  They are unmarried.  She has 2 children from a previous relationship.  He has a child from a previous relationship.  His parents are incredibly wealthy and have, over the years, gifted him money, particular to bail him out after his previous divorces.  Mr Smith has some money and, understandably, is anxious getting into a relationship with Mrs Brown as any assets he has he wishes to pass on to his own children on his death.  He does not want Mrs Brown’s children to be able to claim them.  Matters are further complicated by the fact that Mr Smith’s parents, for inheritance tax planning purposes, want to gift him money to purchase a property.  What does he do?  His parents may be reluctant to give him the money, given his previous track record in relation to unsuccessful marriages.  They, quite rightly, fail to see why if this marriage fails, his partner, Mrs Brown, should get her hands on their money.  We, sadly, see this scenario all the time and it is hardly surprising that people argue over money.

However, help is at hand and through the effective use of wealth preservation documentation, we can avoid people arguing, falling out (or at least we can try!) when it comes to money.  We could prepare a Pre-nuptial Agreement as between Mr Smith and Mrs Brown that confirms that upon their separation the £100,000.00 proposed gift from his parents is ring fenced so that she has no claim in it.   As long as stringent criteria are met then it may be we can protect this money. 

This is simply like an insurance policy.  People have no issue in taking out income protection, for protection in the event that they lose their job through redundancy; critical illness cover for ill health etc.  This document should be viewed exactly the same – it is only saying that if this marriage ends, then the Pre-nup will set out what is to happen on the ending of that marriage.

Life is far too short to allow feuds to continue – the research showed that 20% of those surveyed admitted that someone had died before making peace.  Whilst we cannot promise to sort out all family feuding, we can at least help ease the burden in some scenarios!

Justine Osmotherley is a Partner in the family team at Clarion and can be contacted on 0113 336 3323 to discuss any issues further.

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