When 'Baker Street' singer Gerry Rafferty died last year at the age of 63, he had been with his girlfriend, Enza Fuschini, 58, of Dorset, for two years. When he passed away she decided to keep guitars and artworks which she said he had given to her, and laid claim to a number of other items. Her problem was that none of this had been in writing, and she hadn't been mentioned at all in the late singer's will.
Now a court has decided she should get nothing but a huge legal bill
The caseFuschini had been entirely left out of Rafferty's £1.2 million will. She said that he had given her three valuable guitars, 13 Matisse lithographs and 22 Russian icons. She also said some items had been bought for the pair to use together, including a Steinway piano, electric keyboard, antique furniture and a Mercedes. They were all kept at the rented home that the couple shared.
However, the will's executors decided to take her to court for their return. His daughter Martha, of Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire and Russell Roberts, a lawyer and friend, went to the High Court.
The judge recognised that there was no proof that the gifts had been made, she also said it was significant that Fuschini had only laid claim to the items after Rafferty died. She added that Fuschini should return the items (which will now go to Rafferty's granddaughter) and pay the court costs - an astonishing £75,000.
Vital lessonsIt goes to show just how unpleasant and complicated things can become after someone dies - especially when there are large sums of money involved. As we reported, a case regarding Bernard Matthews' will came to court last month, and despite his express and clear wishes for his French property to go to his long-term mistress, the courts gave the property to his adopted children.
It means that not only is it essential that we write a will, but also that we do so very carefully to ensure that if something should go awry, there are no grounds for anyone to fight over your estate.
It means, for example, that you should take particular care to sign your will in the presence of both witnesses. It may be tempting to cut corners, but in a case in September last year one witness admitted that they signed later, and the will was thrown out.
Another common claim is that someone exerted 'undue influence' when you were drafting the will. This is tough to prove, but you need to be clear with everyone about the decisions you are making and the reasons for them. The more that people have a chance to raise concerns during your lifetime, the less likely they will do so after your death.
There are also problems that can arise when the main beneficiary is closely involved in preparing the will. Someone could claim, for example, that you didn't have sufficient knowledge or approval, and the will would be nullified on that count.
It's worth, therefore, taking your time and using an expert where possible, to make sure everything is clarified and legal, so that even if your will makes waves, you should still have your wishes adhered to.