Caroline Aherne’s £504k estate goes to Mother


Caroline Aherne, star of the Royle Family and Mrs Merton, left her entire £504,060 estate to her mother under the laws of intestacy.

Caroline passed away on 2nd July 2016 after a battle with cancer. She did not have a Will when she died and she was not married, nor did she have any children – so the entire estate went to her mother Mary under intestacy rules.

Caroline rose to fame for her role as Mrs Merton, the loveable spectacle wearing chat show host of The Mrs Merton show which was aired from 1995 to 1998 by the BBC.

She was also well known for her role as idle daughter Denise Royle in the Royle family alongside Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston, which ran from 1998 to 2000.

Caroline also wrote and appeared in The Fast Show, and later narrated the Channel 4 reality TV show ‘Gogglebox’ from 2013. She quit the role in April of this year when she became too ill to continue.

A former heavy smoker, she battled with lung cancer and had told loved ones that she was dying, but her illness worsened more quickly than expected.

Dying without a Will

At just 52, Caroline may have thought she was too young to make a Will. This is a mistake that many people make, assuming that estate planning should happen in later life.

If you die without a Will, all of your personal property and belongings plus the first £250,000 of your estate, and half of the remaining estate, will usually go to your husband/wife or civil partner, if you have one. The balance of the estate will go to the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, depending on a number of factors.

If you jointly own your house with your partner as ‘beneficial joint tenants’, they will automatically inherit your share of the property on death. However, if you own the property as ‘tenants in common‘ they will not automatically inherit your share – instead it will pass according to intestacy rules.

If you have a joint bank or building society accounts, in many cases your partner (or the person you own the joint account with) will also automatically inherit the whole of the money in the account. However, this is not entirely straightforward – it will depend what was agreed in relation to the account, and how the account has been operated. Further, while HMRC are usually not interested in the tax position for joint accounts held by married couples/civil partners, they pay more attention where the account is held by an unmarried couple or parties related in some other way (e.g. mother/daughter). The tax position can be complex.

Automatic inheritance – why it should be avoided

There are disadvantages to your partner inheriting a large portion of your estate automatically on your death. If they need care after your death, the Local Authority will take your share of the estate into account when performing a means test. Almost all of the assets can be used to pay for your partner’s care (down to a limit of £14,250), leaving very little to pass on to your children or grandchildren. If your new partner remarries after your death, their new partner will be first in line to inherit. If they die before their new partner, it is unlikely your children or grandchildren will see any of your estate. With careful estate planning, you can avoid these issues.

If you die intestate and you are not married/in a civil partnership – and you do not have any children – your estate could go to other relatives such as parents, sisters or brothers, nephews or nieces. This will depend on a number of circumstances. A number of people will not inherit – these include unmarried partners even if you cohabited (sometimes incorrectly referred to as ‘common-law’ partners), lesbian or gay partners who were not in a civil partnership, relations by marriage, close friends and carers.

However, if you don’t make a Will and someone you know believes they should have been entitled to receive a share of your estate – perhaps because you helped them financially during your lifetime – they can make a claim to the Court under the Inheritance Act. Without a Will, the Court will not know your feelings on whether that person should inherit or not and the outcome may not be what you would have wanted.

The rules of intestacy are complex and the person you expect or want to inherit may not receive a penny.

Additionally, in thousands of cases, it is the Crown that inherits (see ‘Could you be heir to a fortune?’)

Everyone aged 18 or over should have both a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney. Get in touch with our team and book your free meeting to discuss these documents, without any obligation. If you already have a Will, we would be happy to review it with you, free of charge.

See ‘What happens if I die without a Will?‘ for more information.

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