Battles of the blended family

May 22, 2023


Last week the Daily Mail  reported on the High Court inheritance battle over ice cream businessman Ernie Colicci’s fortune.


A tricky situation to navigate here, as ex-wife and children go up against his widow. The ex-wife and adult children helped to build the 4.9 million ice cream empire, however Ernie left a will stating it would all go to his current wife and child, making comment that his children from his first marriage had benefitted enough over the years.


Although the will stated this, a contract was prepared in 2016 between his first wife and children detailing that any shares left in the company would pass to the adult children. Ernie simply did not comply with this promise, by making a will in 2017 that opposed this.


Cara Hough, Partner from IDR Law comments on the case;


‘While testamentary freedom is a central part of the English legal system, it is always important to stay alert to potential contractual obligations that can prevent any relevant assets being passed under the terms of a Will or the Intestacy Rules. While in this case it appears the Will was prepared to defend any potential 1975 Act claim, it did not deal with the issue of the Deed that had been prepared many years previous.


The outcome? A rather unsurprising (but no doubt frustratingly expensive) win for the adult children who successfully enforced that Deed irrespective of the terms of the deceased’s Will.’


A ticket to claim?


Claims are on the rise, one factor we see a lot as a cause of this is the increase in blended family units, which this piece is a perfect example of.


When creating a deed, you decide whether it is revocable of not. Whilst we haven’t seen the documentation from this particular case it would suggest that this deed was not revokable.


The Will would supplement that document only – it can’t seek to replace / change its content, which appeared to be what the deceased tried to do. Or was Ernie trying to appease his second wife, by in life saying he had left everything to her knowing this deed would be his adult children’s ticket to claim?


We will never know the answer to that question, but its clear to see how the lines blur in these types of relationships and them later it means they are open to dispute.