Margaret Dickson lived in a modest tenement flat in Glasgow and when she died from cancer at the age of 72, the fortune she had amassed over the years shocked her family and friends.
An only child who had never married or had children of her own, she had retired in 1986 and followed the advice of a stockbroker uncle. Her frugal lifestyle meant that her accumulation of cash, shares and stocks continued to grow until they were worth over £1 million.
The fortune only came to light when her cousin, appointed as executor, saw the contents of the will. Interestingly, Miss Dickson left only £20,000 to her family members and donated the rest of her estate to charities.
This kind of revelation can often lead to bitter family disputes, especially when such a vast majority of the fortune is given to charity. Thankfully, in this case, Miss Dickson didn’t have children, siblings, parents or other dependents who might have had a legitimate claim on the estate. However it’s important to note that under Queensland law, family members (including children, step-children, and anyone classed as a ‘dependent’) could lodge a legitimate claim against the estate and contest the will in court.
Leaving surprises like this in your will is not advisable, particularly if you have a family. It is always preferable to be clear and direct in your will so that there is a minimum of conflict after your death. As always, it is important to seek specialist advice when it comes to planning your will and estate planning.