Picasso's expensive mess: Dying intestate

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Dying intestate, that is, without a valid will, can be a messy, contentious, and costly affair. Adopting Pablo Picasso as my muse, allow me to paint a picture for you.

Known across lands for his vast output of cubist works, Picasso nevertheless neglected one very important opus: his Will. Perhaps the concept of the Will was just not abstract enough for our post-impressionist or perhaps his wild, artistic temperament recoiled in horror at the prospect of ordered affairs. This is, of course, all idle conjecture but the point remains: Picasso died intestate and, in doing so, created an expensive mess (an apt description of his artwork, some may argue).

If someone dies without leaving a valid Will in England and Wales, their assets will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925. The order of entitlement under the intestacy rules, depends upon the value of the deceased's estate and which members of their family survive them. In essence, a person who dies intestate cannot stipulate to whom they leave their assets as this is pre-determined by legislation. Thus, as well as being a potentially expensive and quarrelsome exercise, intestacy may bring about some unintended and undesired consequences.

In the case of Picasso (who died in France), the French courts took six years to settle the estate at a cost of nearly 30 million Euros. In a rancorous battle of Dickensian Jarndyce v Jarndyce proportions, the estate was eventually divided between Picasso's three surviving children and the two children of his fourth child, Paul (who died during the course of legal proceedings). A Blue Period indeed for Picasso's descendants!

The moral of the story: if you lacquer Will, don't just brush the idea aside. A situation like Picasso's can be easel-y avoided if you canvas legal opinion. Please contact us for advice and information in the drafting of this most important of compositions: your Will. 

Photograph of Alison Craggs

Alison advises clients on the best structure for their Wills and prepares powers of attorney and administers estates. 

Alison Craggs
Email Alison
01865 254209

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