When a millionaire estate agent died intestate, the two women he had been involved with both tried to have his estate distributed according to their wishes.

Chris John died leaving an estate worth £5 million. At the time of his death, he had been cohabiting for several years with Gillian Clemo. However, unknown to her, his divorce from his wife had never been finalised and he had never made a Will.

What happened next turned tragedy into farce. Shortly after discovering that he had not finalised his divorce and was therefore still legally married to Mrs John, Ms Clemo claimed to have discovered a Will. This left Mr John’s assets in trust for his daughter until she reached 27 years of age and would have allowed Ms Clemo to continue to live in the home the couple had occupied.

If the circumstances of the discovery of the Will were not enough to create doubt, Mr John’s apparent failure to spell his daughter’s name correctly certainly was. An investigation into the Will revealed it to be a fake. However, while the investigation was still ongoing, Mrs John forged a codicil to it. This was also exposed as a deception.

Ms Clemo was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,500. The lenient sentence was largely due to her prior good character. Mrs John was let off with a caution.

As Mr John died intestate, Mrs John stands to inherit all of her husband’s personal property and belongings, the first £250,000 of his estate and a life interest in half of the remainder.

The couple’s daughter stands to inherit one half of the value of the estate above £250,000 and the other half of the value of the estate above £250,000 when her mother dies.

However, Ms Clemo, as a person dependent on Mr John, can bring a claim for maintenance against the estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, so further court proceedings are likely.

For details of the intestacy rules, see the DirectGov website at
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Death/Preparation/DG_10029802. For information on making a claim on an estate as a dependant, see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/63.

It is always best to make a will and to make sure that it is held securely and that your executor knows where it is. A will in which your wishes for the distribution of your estate are clearly outlined will simplify and speed up the administration of the estate and can prevent much family bickering.