Halloween & Estate Planning: Visits from the souls of the past
Halloween is that “very American” holiday where the kids dress up to ‘trick or treat’, the students party all weekend and parents stock their pantries with sweets in a bid to protect their homes from the kids and students.
Halloween falls on the evening of the 31st of October and the name is a contraction of ‘All Hallows Evening,’ or ‘All Saints Eve’, since it is the evening before All Saints or (All Hallows) Day.
So where did this, rather unusual, tradition originally begin?
The exact origins of Halloween are still being debated. It is commonly accepted that the tradition stems from Celtic origins; however there are others who believe Halloween has a much older past, as a pagan harvest ritual.
Common throughout many cultures, however, is the belief that souls of the dead return to Earth on one night of the year. Some believed that the souls of the dead would wander the Earth until All Saints Day on November the 1st, meaning that Halloween represented their final chance to seek vengeance on their enemies before moving on to the afterlife.
In some cultures, Halloween was a time of celebration, where families would even lay out places at the dinner table, and even leave meals on the table for the spirits of their deceased relatives, which would visit on the evening.
So what do Halloween and the vengeance seeking souls of the past have to do with Deceased Estates and law? Well, as Estates lawyers, we often bear witness to a very real, if not opposite, phenomenon – deceased persons being haunted by the living.
All too often when a person dies, old friends, relatives, partners and secret lovers seem to appear from thin-air in pursuit of a slice of the deceased’s estate. As with the historical beliefs of Halloween, these ‘souls of the past’ often show no mercy in pursuing what they believe they deserve.
In times gone by, those fearing revenge from the ‘souls of the past’, would do their best to hide-out, wearing costumes and disguises. Deceased estates obviously do not have the luxury of simply hiding, but there are other methods that a smart-few employ, in order to best protect their estate from the souls of the past.
Firstly, and not surprisingly, is a properly drafted Will, prepared by a specialist Estate Planning Solicitor. If you do not want certain people chasing after your estate after you’ve passed, there are some ways that solicitors can best protect your assets, by specifically excluding these individuals as beneficiaries.