Fans of the ITV Soap Opera Coronation Street will no doubt be familiar with the current inheritance storyline following the tragic suicide of Aidan Connor. Whilst Coronation Street is a fiction, it has to be assumed that the bigger, more sensational storylines are researched thoroughly to ensure a true depiction before it reaches the homes of millions.
Associate – Estate & Trust Disputes Specialist
Coronation Street's Depiction of an Inheritance Dispute
Aidan Connor left a Will which was found by family friend Michelle when the family was sorting out his possessions after his suicide. The Will purportedly leaves Aiden’s share of his business to his business partner Alya who had helped Aidan rebuild the business after it had previously gone bankrupt. Until recently, the terms of the Will have been concealed from the wider family and from Alya herself.
After the Will was made, but before Aidan's death, Carla Connor had given Aidan her share in the business in order to assist Aidan in a new venture. This was against the background of Aidan donating his kidney to Carla to save her life.
Michelle originally held back the Will and didn’t show anyone; but then showed it to Carla after she witnessed Carla’s "bullying" treatment of Alya and she also told Jenny, Aidan’s stepmother.
Everyone was outraged and promptly headed to the local solicitor (Adam Barlow) to get some legal advice.
The Fictional Legal Advice
Adam's initial advice was that the Will appeared to be valid and it would be difficult to challenge.
However, the three women were not satisfied with this answer and urged him to “think again" referring to the fact that he, previously, had not always acted by the book. That episode ended with him saying he would have a rethink. While in the solicitor's office, Jenny started to attempt to destroy the Will by tearing it up, but was prevented from doing so.
Adam has since suggested that the family could challenge the Will for lack of mental capacity; this is based on Aidan’s depression and subsequent suicide.
The story now hangs in the balance and we will have to wait, in true soap land style, for all the threads to come together before we see any outcome in relation to Aidan’s affairs. In the meantime, I will set out the facts of the scenario so far:
Legal Facts in this Fictional Scenario
Is the Will Valid?
The Will will be deemed valid as long as Aidan had the necessary mental capacity to make the Will and was not unduly influenced to do so, and so long as it was signed by him and witnessed by two independent witnesses who were both in the presence of Aidan at the time he signed the Will (as per Section 9 of the Wills Act 1837). This can be challenged if there is strong evidence to support such challenge. It is unlikely that depression would be a sufficient reason to allege lack of capacity.
If the Will is deemed to be valid it is the duty of the executors to administer the Will in accordance with the terms of the Will. In the case of Aidan's Will, it is not clear who the executors are or what other provisions were made, but certainly insofar as the business is concerned, Alya is entitled to Aidan’s share.
What Happens if the Will gets Destroyed?
It is illegal for anyone to destroy or otherwise conceal the existence of a Will. If Jenny had succeeded in destroying the Will it would have been a criminal offence.
However, if the existence of the Will had not been found and brought to the attention of Alya (or any of the family) then it would be assumed that Aidan did not leave a Will and the estate will be administered under the Intestacy Rules. In this case, Aidan did not leave a spouse so his estate would go primarily to any children of his. He recently fathered a child with Eva (Susie) but none of the family know this about Susie so the assumption would be that his estate would be shared between his closest relatives. He has a sister, Kate and father Johnny. Also a half sister, Carla. In this scenario everything would go to Johnny.
What about Susie Barlow?
If Eva comes clean about Susie, Susie will be entitled to the whole estate under the Intestacy Rules. However if the Will is not destroyed, and deemed valid, Susie will have a potential claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975 as a child of the family who was not left reasonable provision. As a minor child in all the circumstances. she could have a very strong claim. However if Susie is formally adopted by Toyah and Peter, she will not have recourse under this Act. Therefore, if Eva is going to acknowledge that Aidan is Susie’s father, she needs to act quickly before Susie loses her right to any claim once the adoption process is complete.
Does Carla Connor have a Claim?
Carla may be able to bring a claim for a share of the business, given the monies she invested but if that money was deemed to be a “gift” to Aidan then this will no doubt be the subject of the litigation.
What about Alya Nazir?
If the Will is ‘lost’ she may have a claim to a share of the business if she invested money in it.
We Can Help
At MW Solicitors, our mission is "To make quality legal services accessible to everyone" including those who find themselves in a similar situation to those of the fictional characters of Weatherfield. Whether you are part owner of an up and coming knicker factory or a minor beneficiary about to be adopted there are avenues that can be explored to help you.