Gary Rycroft column

Nelson Mandela’s Will was read out to his family this week.

I always thought reading the Will out to the family of the deceased was something that happens only in fiction rather than in the real word.

It’s certainly not something we routinely do at our office.

But it seems the poor South African Lawyer had to do it for the Mandela Family and it caused a few sharp intakes of breath as ex wife Winnie was not mentioned.

Was this a snub from beyond the grave? Some have tried to talk it up as such, but it did not strike me as too surprising as ex-wife’s do not usually feature in Wills.

More often upon marital breakdown the desire is to make a new Will asap to exclude the estranged party, as until the divorce is final (a decree absolute severs any ex-spouse or civil partner from a Will) there is risk the soon to be ex may still inherit.

The Nelson Mandela Will story caused Radio 4 to ring me up and ask if I would go on PM to talk about quirky Wills, which I did.

William Shakespeare left his “second best bed” to his wife Anne Hathaway (but who got the “first best” and why?) and Harry Houdini left a request that his wife should hold a séance every year so he could talk to her.

Napoleon left instructions that after his death his head be shaved and his hair divided up amongst his friends.

That’s not one I’ll include in my next Will as my friends would be bitterly disappointed. But back to Nelson Mandela. Apparently he and Winnie became close again towards the end and she was with him together with his third and final wife Graca Machel when he died last December.

However, his Will was made in 2004 and updated in 2008. So the “snub” to Winnie may have arisen because his Will wasn’t up to date.

It’s great to have a Will, but it should be one which reflects your present wishes. I would say you should review your Will at least every five years.

So as St. Valentine’s Day approaches do something really romantic and thoughtful for your loved one - make sure you have a valid, up to date Will. It’s particularly important to do so if you and your loved are not married as at present unmarried partners have no automatic right to inherit.