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Oxo Mum's Will Leaves Children In The Cold

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Another celebrity estate dispute has recently hit the headlines, as the children of Lynda Bellingham, the actress made famous as the “OXO mum” in the long running TV adverts, claim that Lynda’s widower is spending all her money whilst they were left nothing in her will.

In 2014 Lynda passed away after suffering from bowel cancer. She revised her will at Christmas 2013 prior to having an operation for her cancer. She was, according to her children, taking a lot of medication at the time.  The new will left her whole estate to her third husband, property developer, Michael Pattemore whom the actress had married in 2008. Her will did not make any provision for Lynda’s two adult sons from a previous relationship, Michael and Robbie Peluso. They claim that, except for gifts of £750, they received nothing from their mother’s estate. Mr Pattemore meanwhile is alleged to have already spent thousands of Lynda’s estate on expensive holidays and, according to the sons, he has taken steps to evict them from the family home.

The terms of the will appear to have come as a shock to many, especially Lynda’s sons. Lynda had been a devoted mother to Michael and Robbie though they did not approve of her wedding to Michael Pattemore, who was apparently jailed in 1998 for 21 months for his involvement in a financial scam.  It is unclear whether Lynda was fully aware of the effects of the will she was making and may have assumed that her widower would provide for her sons after her death.     Probate has not yet been granted which suggests that the sons may be contesting the validity of the will.   

It seems that this dispute has already become very acrimonious with allegations being made on both sides.  Michael Peluso is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying “This isn’t about the money, it’s about the fact that he’s got control over everything my mother worked for her entire life, and we know that’s not what she wanted

If the validity of the will cannot be challenged, Michael and Robbie may still have a claim  under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975, as either children or dependants of Lynda on the basis that the will does not make reasonable financial provision for them. This is the same law which has generated much newspaper coverage in recent months due to the case of Ilott v Mitson where an adult daughter living on benefits received a third of her estranged mother’s estate after it was all left to charity.

It appears that this case will run and may well cost all parties large amounts of money in legal fees. This is a very sad situation which only serves to highlight the need to have a specialist solicitor advise on the terms of a will and to  ensure that it actually carries out the testator’s wishes especially as family structures become more complex.

If you would like more advice on challenges to wills or making a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, please don't hesitate to speak to us.