The nine year old girl who got nothing

Jane Cassell
Jane CassellJC Independent Wills & Probate

Once upon a time, I was a little girl. My parents divorced, and both my Mum and my Dad remarried. A year after my Mum remarried, she died, which was not the plan at all.

Jane Cassell as a child
Jane Cassell by Stephanie Belton Photography

My Mum was only forty-four years young, and I was only nine.

Marriage cancels wills

A legal fact which can often have unintended consequences, is that marriage cancels wills, unless special wording is included in the will.

What this meant for my family, was that Mum's new husband was entitled to claim Mum's whole estate, and he took it.

My Dad went to court on my behalf, trying to secure a portion of my Mum's estate for me, her youngest child, but that prolonged court case achieved nothing financially.

I have merrily gone about my life for a few decades, but as anyone who's personally been involved in court matters will know, it has an impact. There was part of me that was somewhat anxious about qualifying as a solicitor back in 2001, as my family has a deep distrust of lawyers.

However, in 2017 I had a chance encounter which has turned out to be life changing. I came face to face with the man who took everything. It was a very unexpected meeting, and although I coped perfectly well with it in the moment, following that encounter, I fell apart. I cried more than I thought it was possible to cry, and my family had to put me back together again. It really did have a profound impact on me.

Timing is everything

Sometimes timing is everything, and within a month of meeting that man after 34 years, I had the opportunity to enter a women's business award for legal services. We all have to decide in life what to focus on and what will serve us and others. I knew when I saw the opportunity to enter those awards, that this was my opportunity to move from being the woman who goes on and on about wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) and fixed fee Probate services, to the woman who goes on, for a very personal and compelling reason.

What I've found, since opening up in a LinkedIn article in September 2017: I was the nine year old little girl who got nothing, is that clients are far more able to understand the risks of remarriage, when they understand what happened to me.

People now contact me, knowing that I care for them and their family, in a way that people don't believe all lawyers care. I am asked to recommend lawyers to deal with divorce, commercial matters, employment law matters and all sorts of situations requiring legal guidance. People know that my rule is, that if I wouldn't recommend my own family to a particular lawyer, then I won't recommend anyone. It's a rule that's served me and my clients well.

Please take action

You may be reading this for a reason. If it's got you thinking about your own will, please take action. Whatever the statistics are about how many people get wills in place, your family cares about your will, and presumably, you care about your family. If you're concerned about the challenging conversations that need to be had, to progress your will, all the more reason to choose a specialist lawyer who has seen most situations before, and who has the skills to guide you and your loved ones through the decisions that need to be made.

Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.

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