June 2019


Probate debate


Probate disputes are on the rise, says Devorah Ormonde of local solicitors Wiseman Lee, who explains why making a will needs professional assistance to discourage claims against your estate after your death.

Recent research has found almost half of UK adults have no form of will at all, with 25% of people having no intention to make a will. Of those who do have a will, many are being prepared without professional assistance, as DIY wills can be purchased online quite cheaply.

However, the increase in the number of probate disputes being heard at the High Court – which in 2018 totalled 368 cases, up from 282 in 2017 and 227 in 2016 – may be linked to a rise in the number of DIY wills being made in the UK.

The Law Society is blaming the rise in probate disputes on people making DIY wills. Creating a will may be a complicated legal process. As a result, when wills are made without professional assistance, they may be unclear, omit key information or fail to comply with the legal requirements a will must adhere to. This can lead to applications needing to be made to the court to interpret the wording of the will or to challenge its validity. DIY wills can often contain mistakes that make them difficult to administer or render them illegitimate.

Even where there is no question of the validity of the will, it is still possible for a claim to be made in relation to a person’s estate after their death. Under English law, a person making the will can dispose of their estate as they wish. However, certain people can bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act 1975 for reasonable provision to be made for them when they have not been included in a will at all or consider what has been left to them is insufficient.

Those who can bring such a claim include a surviving or former spouse or civil partner, a child or any person treated by the deceased as a child of the family, those who were maintained by the deceased immediately before their death and anyone who has lived under the same roof as husband and wife or as civil partners for a period of two years immediately prior to the death.

If you consider there are people who may wish to object to the distribution of your estate in accordance with your wishes, it is highly recommended that you instruct an experienced solicitor to prepare your will. You can then explain why you have decided to leave your estate in the way you have done, and a statement can also be prepared to be kept with your will setting out your reasons. This can then be supplied by the executor to a disappointed beneficiary after your death to discourage a claim.

There is no need for you to discuss the contents of your will with any beneficiaries during your lifetime, but you may wish to do so if you feel this could avoid a dispute occurring after your death.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000

Resting place, finally

joseph-merrickJoseph Merrick (1862–1890)

Author Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, who is related to the showman who exhibited Joseph Merrick as the Elephant Man in the 1880s, recently discovered the location of Joseph’s final resting place… in Aldersbrook

On 15 April 1890, an inquest was held into the death of Joseph Merrick by coroner Wynne Baxter. After the funeral service – held in the chapel at the London Hospital – Joseph’s body was handed over to Dr Frederick Treves.

Joseph’s bones were removed of flesh, bleached twice and re-articulated for private display in the medical college. Plaster casts were taken of Joseph’s head and extremities. What happened to the rest of Joseph’s remains always remained a mystery. In a 1997 Q.E.D. documentary, The True Story of Joseph Merrick, it was suggested Joseph’s remains were laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the East End of London.

On 6 April 2019, I was giving a talk for the Whitechapel Society on Joseph. The friend I travelled down with told me that a friend of hers always put a bottle of gin on the grave of the Jack the Ripper victim Catherine Eddowes. I thought nothing of it, until after the talk a member of the audience asked me where I thought Joseph’s flesh was buried? Off the cuff, I responded by saying: “Probably where the Ripper victims are.” My response stuck with me and when I returned home, I looked up where Catherine Eddowes was buried and found that she and Polly Nichols (another victim) were buried at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.

Looking up the cemetery on the internet, I found their burial records were online. So, I just sat there and typed in the date Joseph died to start the search. On page two of the online records, just under halfway down the page, was a Joseph Merrick. It recorded his burial date as 24 April 1890. The coroner was listed as Wynne Baxter, the description of residence was London Hospital and the age was 28 (although Joseph was 27 when he died). After convincing myself this was the right Joseph Merrick, I contacted the cemetery. I just wanted a photo of the plot – I live in Leicester and it’s difficult to get down.

Superintendent Registrar Gary Burks managed to locate the plot, and said if I came down, he would take me to it. On 3 May 2019, I did indeed drive down. Gary took me to the exact plot where Joseph was buried, he had put in the ground a little wooden marker and I laid a little posy of flowers. Joseph is in a common grave, so there was probably never a headstone. But he does lie in consecrated ground. Joseph, whilst living at the London Hospital, was confirmed into the Church of England by the suffragan Bishop of the East End of London, Dr William Walsham How.

This month, the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium will be installing a small brass plaque to mark the place where Joseph Carey Merrick rests.

Joanne’s book Joseph: The Life, Times and Places of The Elephant Man is published by Mango Books, priced £12.50. For more information, visit wnstd.com/merrick

Wanstead’s loss: Clive Fenner


Following the recent death of Wanstead resident and jazz drummer Clive Fenner – who founded the East Side Jazz Club – Robert Maitland explains how he and fellow musicians will keep his legacy alive

Clive Fenner was a popular, respected and well-liked figure on the Wanstead scene and many local people, as well as those from far-off places, have remarked on the sad news of his passing away on 28 April following a two-year battle with cancer. We have lost a warm personality in our neighbourhood and beyond.

Clive was born in Writtle, Essex in 1949. He went to teacher training college in Walsall and later went on to complete a Masters in Philosophy. Clive moved to Wanstead after marrying and taught Philosophy of Education at Havering College for 15 years.

Clive worked hard at being a jazz drummer, educator and promoter. He founded the East Side Jazz Club in Leytonstone with Martin Hathaway in 1994, featuring the cream of British jazz musicians. To name but a few that have passed through the club’s doors: Kenny Wheeler, Peter King, John Etheridge, Ian Carr, Michael Garrick, Alan Barnes, Jason Yarde, Zoe Rahman and the John Altman Big Band. The club has been running successfully on a Tuesday night for 25 years now. There cannot be many jazz clubs able to boast of such longevity. It has always been run as a non-profit making concern, affording access to a wide audience. His inspiration provided a top-flight jazz club in east London, a feature that had been absent for a long time in the area.

The year after setting up the jazz club, Clive founded the International French Jazz Summer School, where professional and amateur jazz players alike could receive and give tuition in a very relaxed atmosphere, including a young Jamie Cullum.

In 2001, Clive embarked on a venture further afield. He started the Cuban Music School where jazz musicians could learn and experience Cuban music first-hand in Old Havana. Musicians from Buena Vista Social Club, Sierra Maestra, Omar Puente and others tutored musicians that had been attracted globally to this event, creating a rich mix of cultures.

In 2012, Clive recorded his first CD Get It to good reviews, featuring his quartet Martin Hathaway, Geoff Gascoyne and Mark Ridout. A second CD followed in 2016 with the addition of Jim Watson on piano.

Clive Fenner’s contribution has provided a rich source of education and enjoyment to so many musicians and jazz enthusiasts, not only in east London but to others in the UK and abroad. Many notable tributes to his influence have been received in response to his passing. It is only fitting, and it is what he would have liked, that his legacy is maintained. A group of volunteers are therefore determined to keep the East Side Jazz Club running, hopefully for another 25 years.

For more information on the East Side Jazz Club, visit wnstd.com/jazz