Screen legend’s family feud is a lesson for us all says Leics legal expert

The legal battle for the estate of a legendary Oscar winning Hollywood actor has a message for normal members of the public, warns one of Leicestershire’s leading solicitors.

Peter Chadwick, of QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank said the battle over the wealth of Sir Peter Ustinov is a useful reminder to everyone of the need to review Wills regularly.

“The very public ongoing dispute over the Will of Peter Ustinov is now in its tenth year and has caused incredible heartache for a group of people, all of whom should be made very wealthy by the Will,” said Mr Chadwick, whose firm have branches in both Coalville and Hinckley.

“When Ustinov died in 2004 he was estimated to have an estate worth tens of millions of pounds, but according to media reports legal costs have eaten into this and by the time the battle is over there may be little or nothing left from this incredible fortune just because he didn’t have a valid Will.

The family of Mr Ustinov’s second wife have now taken the case to London’s High Court, with the son Igor Ustinov reportedly saying the dispute over the will had left him close to bankruptcy.

The dispute is over an argument that a handwritten will made in 1968 was automatically revoked when Mr Ustinov, who won Oscars for Topkapi and Spartacus, remarried a few years later.

Mr Chadwick said making a Will remained something many people were avoiding.

“There is something very uncomfortable about facing our own mortality and that is why so many put off making a Will,” he said.

“However, the complexities of modern day families make the need for a clear unambiguous and above all valid Will more important than ever for the sake of loved ones.”

“We now have situations where someone may be co-habiting with an unmarried partner and have children, or may have been married more than once and may want to leave part of their estate to their partner’s or second spouses children, and many other variations besides, added Mr Chadwick, whose practice have been in Coalville since 1923.

“It is very important now that everyone should make a Will, but even more so if your personal life is more complicated than what used to be the norm,” he warned.

He added that it was wise to use a solicitor to ensure a Will is correctly drawn and properly executed. Currently the Legal Services Board, who oversees the law in England and Wales, are looking at stronger regulation of Will-writing services.

“Solicitors are required to be covered by professional indemnity insurance, and are subject to a professional regulatory and disciplinary regime. However, there are some Will-writers in the marketplace who are currently not subject to any regulation,” he said.

Further details on Will writing are available by calling QualitySolicitors Mander Cruickshank on 01530 510666.

Any queries call Nolan PR on 01564 822861/ 07505 133302

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