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Not everyone's a winner

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Former lovers and the PA of the late Michael Winner are in dispute with each other, and with his widow Geraldine, over the distribution of his estate following his death.

Dinah May, who was Michael’s PA for 35 years, together with two former lovers, Paula Lombard and Catherine Neilson, were all named in Winner’s Will and left bequests. Dinah was left a £1.2 million flat plus £300,000, Paula was left a flat and £600,000, and Catherine was left £1 million. Winner’s wife Geraldine, was left his main home, plus £5 million.

However, the estate has proved to be worth significantly less than everyone had first thought, and there simply is not enough money to go around. His gross estate has been valued in the region of £16.8 million, however after extensive debts were uncovered, the value of the estate has reduced to around £4.7 million.  Most of the properties appear to have had mortgages on them, and despite the wishes in his Will, it may be that not everyone will receive what he said that they could have.

When someone has left specific gifts in their Will, there is not usually an order in which those people get paid, and therefore if there is not enough money to go around, this can then often lead to heated arguments over who should be entitled to what, especially where the bequests are a mix of property and cash.

As a solicitor specialising in inheritance disputes, and also as a registered member of the Association of Contentious Trusts and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS), I deal with many of these cases on a regular basis.  Anyone facing this kind of inheritance dispute with their family members, or wishing to contest a Will for any other reason, should always seek specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

By Heather Korwin-Szymanowska, Wills, trust & estate disputes team