Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Problem with Out of Date Wills
Philip Seymour Hoffman sadly died aged only 46. The life expectancy of an American man is 77 years, and this only makes us more aware of our own mortality
. Fortunately, Philip had a will. Unfortunately, it didn't reflect his circumstances at the time of his death
, and is now likely to be the cause of some dispute
. This demonstrates the need to make a will at quite an early point in life, and also keep it up to date.
So what can you do if your loved one has passed away, leaving what seems to be an out of date will?
Looking at the Issues
Firstly, Philip Seymour Hoffman was an American citizen. However, for the purposes of explaining some of the issues, we will look at the law of Wills & Probate in England and Wales. Secondly, despite Philip's high net worth, it is important to note that wills and disputes surrounding them are not just the mainstay of multi-millionaires
Philip left the majority of his estate to his partner, and the rest was put into a trust for his son
. He made this will in 2004, and after writing it, went on to have 2 more children
. On top of this, Philip became estranged from his partner
in 2013, due to his substance abuse problems.
This leaves 2 issues:
- What about the 2 children who were born after the writing of the will? Philip seemed to have as good a relationship with them as he did with his first son
- What about his partner? They were estranged for around a year before his death, but it isn't known what he would want in relation to a gift to her in the will
In similar circumstances, the children left out of the will would be able to make a claim under the Inheritance Act
, as a child of the deceased. This claim would be supported by the relationship he had with the children, since it would suggest that he would want them to be provided for
. Because they were also dependent on their father, this would also support such a claim.
As for the ex-partner, it's a bit difficult to separate fact from fiction when looking at press coverage of the nature of the relationship at the time of their death. Because of this, her legal position can't really be commented on. However, they weren't married at any point and so she wouldn't be entitled to make a similar claim
to the children under the Inheritance Act.
If the partner co-habited with him and was a cohabitee for 2 years prior to the date of death she would potentially be able to make such a claim, but as she has separated from him this would not be the case here.
The success or failure of claims under the Inheritance Act
is very often made on a 'case by case basis'. The facts of each family's circumstances often dramatically change the chance of a claim being successful.