Last weekend saw the city of Cardiff magically transformed into the city of the unexpected as thousands of people gathered to celebrate the centenary of the birth of one the world’s most beloved authors, Roald Dahl, who was born in Llandaff. Dahl-esque events were seen across the city centre such as James’ giant peach rolling along Westgate street and a fearless Fantastic Mr Fox walking a tightrope across the castle walls. The events quite truly were gloriumptious!
As children my sister and I were very au fait with Mr Dahl’s books. They were marvellous bed time companions. I could devour Fantastic Mr Fox in one sitting. My sister even sought inspiration from the pages of Matilda as she tried to punish our parents for giving her a row! (For those of you who want to know she cut holes in my mother’s lace tablecloth and stapled her pillow case).
Incidentally Matilda was recently voted as the nation’s favourite Roald Dahl character. As it happens the book itself is one of my favourites. Matilda is an unlikely heroine, the plot is devious and the villain treacherous. Justice however triumphs by way of a happy ending for Matilda and her class teacher Miss Honey.
Miss Honey much akin to Dahl himself suffered a great loss as a young child. She was raised by an abusive aunt following the suspicious death of her beloved father. The aunt is none other than the dreadly Miss Trunchbull who refuses to provide Miss Honey with her father’s inheritance. When reading the book as a child the issue of the deprived inheritance did not particularly vex me. I was more astounded by Matilda’s telekinesis abilities. However as a private client solicitor specialising in wills and probate I cannot help but think, if only Miss Honey’s father had made a will before his untimely death, his daughter’s casasterous situation may well have been avoided. By appointing a sensible person as the executor or trustee of his will Miss Honey’s father could have ensured that his daughter’s inheritance was correctly looked after and wisely invested. The creation of a trust for her benefit would have ensured that Miss Honey would receive her inheritance at an appropriate age, such as 18 or 21. Not forgetting that Miss Honey’s father ought to have appointed a guardian in his will to care for his daughter should he predecease her whilst she was in her minority – (it’s thought best to appoint a person who actually likes children as a guardian!)
Miss Honey too could have sought legal advice regarding her abject poverty and misfortune. As a child of the deceased she would be entitled to claim against her father’s estate pursuant to the terms of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) act 1975 if she felt that her father’s estate had not reasonably provided for her.
Now of course the above is purely hypothetical but in Dahl’s words “a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men”.
Fiction aside, Roald Dahl saw the benefit in making a will and provided the majority of his estate to his second wife. Second marriages are now common place in today’s society but can often prove to be a vexing or plexicated issue when deciding how one’s estate should be divided after death. Often the testator seeks to strive fairness between his or her new spouse and the children of the first marriage. Legal advice should be sought if this leaves anybody feeling a little biffsquiggled!
Legacy living is also key to most wills. I recently drafted a will that created a pecuniary trust to a beneficiary together with a specific gift of the testator’s tortoise. This Ied me to wonder, what Mr Hoppy would have done with his tortoises had he decided to keep them all or if the pet shop had refused to take them back?
Dahl’s estate continues to support charitable causes such as specialist children nurses, educational outreach programmes and grants for families in need. But to me his legacy will always be his books. They continue to delight and astound and have taken me to whole new worlds. His imagination is boundless, his wordsmith masterful (see how many Dahl words you can spot) and his creativity captivating.
I’ll finish with this little gem by Mr Fox, uttered too often I’m sure to many a solicitor – “I understand what you’re saying and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice”.