Ian Wooldridge estate dispute intensifies as widow seeks a larger portion of estate

A recent estate dispute from Britain illustrates some of the conflicts that may arise among family members in blended family situations . The dispute stems from the untimely death of Ian Wooldridge. The original story was published in The Telegraph and is found here. Ian Wooldridge was a construction tycoon who along with his brother Graham was in charge of a vast construction empire. Mr. Wooldridge was killed in a helicopter crash in October of 2010. He was survived by two sons and his widow, Mrs. Wooldridge. As part of his £10 million estate, Mr. Wooldridge left a house worth £4.25 million and other assets worth £1.6 million to Mrs. Wooldridge.

The current dispute is between Mrs. Wooldridge and one of her step-sons, Charlie. Her position is that she is allegedly  entitled to an additional £3.75 million from the estate. Mrs. Wooldridge also claims that she needs close to £400,000 per year for her expenses and to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed while living with Mr. Wooldridge.

Her step-son Charlie’s position is that her requests are out of proportion, and that the amounts being claimed would undermine Mr. Wooldridge’s intention to create a commercial dynasty for his sons. His position appears to be that her demands would destroy the family businesses. Charlie has also allegedly wasted a lot of money due to gambling.

At the time I’m writing this blog entry, the exchange rate is almost one to two: one British Pound is equal to approximately two Canadian dollars. In other words Mrs. Wooldridge is alleging that her lifestyle costs around $750,000 Canadian dollars per year. Although this may seem extravagant to the average person, it is important to note that Mr. and Mrs. Wooldridge allegedly lived a lavish lifestyle involving a lot of luxury and travel. If Mrs. Wooldridge feels that her demands are not met by what she received in accordance with the will, she is entitled to pursue more from the estate. An accounting of her expenses would likely have to be presented to the Court.

Estate disputes involving blended families are not uncommon.

It will be interesting what happens with this dispute. It seems as though the correct approach would be to mediate the dispute and to attempt to resolve differences without prolonged litigation. Both sides of the dispute are seeking to get as much as they can from the estate. The best approach would be to attempt to resolve the dispute quickly and to keep legal costs low. Furthermore, given the public profile of the parties involved, a private resolution where the details of the settlement remain confidential would be best.

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