Bernard Matthews, Britain’s largest turkey producer, passed away at the age of 80 in 2010. Matthews’ family situation is quite complicated, making matters of estate distribution rather difficult. And, with an estate worth nearly $100 million dollars, Matthews should have create an estate plan to ensure his final wishes would be carried out.
Matthews married his wife Joyce back in 1953. Shortly before marrying her he had begun his business with only 20 turkey eggs and a second-hand incubator. Over the years, Joyce helped Matthews to build his multimillion dollar industry. While they were together, the couple adopted three children together: Kathleen, Jason and Victoria. Later, Matthews dated a Dutch aristocrat named Cornelia Elgershuizen who gave birth to his biological son, George. After Elgershuizen, Matthews got involved in a long-term relationship with Odile Marteyn which lasted for approximately 20 years until his death in 2010. Matthews and Joyce remained married but have lived apart for nearly 35 years.
Matthews had created several wills, including one that left his $19 million French Villa Bolinha to his long-time mistress Marteyn. However, according to France’s laws, the children would inherit at least 75% of the villa. Matthews wrote a pleading letter to his children asking them to allow Marteyn to get ownership of the villa. He stated, “Odile has supported me unfailingly for many years and particularly so during my recent illnesses. Without such support I might not have been able to continue directing our family company for our mutual benefit…I wish the French villa to continue to be occupied and enjoyed, and consider Odile would be the best person to take on this responsibility.” While his biological son George did respect his wishes, his adopted children did not. Because of this division, Marteyn could only inherit 43.75% of the villa.
Unfortunately, Matthews decided to divide his estate in a manner that caused great contention among his children and mistress. He left the bulk of his fortune to his biological son George, attempted to leave nearly $2 million in cash and the French villa for Marteyn, and nothing to his adopted children (though he had provided well for them during his lifetime).
While we cannot speak to France’s probate and inheritance laws, in the United States we recommend using a living trust to ensure your assets are distributed as you wish. While many judges try to comply with a will, it can often be altered and contested. Using a will means the judge has the final say in how your estate is distributed during probate. This did not work out to match Bernard Matthews’ wishes, which is often the case when using a will or dying without planning in place. A living trust protects your assets, avoids probate and ensures your estate is distributed according to your wishes. Make certain your assets go to whom you want, when you want and how you want by creating a living trust.
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You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others – which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.