A lady wrote into a national newspaper recently saying that her husband had purchased a DIY Will from a newsagent. When making a will, he left the family home to all five of his grandchildren once they reached the age of 25.
On the face of it, this seemed to be a fair and straightforward instruction. However, as the legal advisor rightly pointed out, this would in fact mean that the Executors of the Will would then need to look after the interests of the home until the first grandchild reached 25. This could mean that if the Executors decided to sell the home to make it a cash asset rather than a property inheritance, the gentleman’s wife may be forced to move out.
This is an excellent example of why, although buying cheap online wills or templates and writing it yourself may seem like a great idea, you should always seek legal advice when preparing it to ensure that you have avoided the numerous legal pitfalls and remembered to include everything.
Remember too that a professional Will writer should also be able, whilst preparing the document, to advise you on making decisions which will benefit your next of kin in the best way possible, including planning your Estate specifically to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax which will fall due.
A case whereby a man appeared to sign a new, handwritten Will on his deathbed continues to cause debate and indecision, eight years on.
Martin Lavin signed an initial Will in 2002, a fact which was concealed from the court by his niece, who had been a legal secretary. For reasons unknown, he was said to have signed another Will, prepared by his niece Hanora Bem, only hours before his actual death – a Will which left most of his Estate to his sister, Anne Liston, Hanora’s mother.
Mrs Liston unfortunately died only a few months later – leaving behind a case which has been dragged through the courts ever since by Ms Bem and Mr Lavin’s other nephew.
This case has come before the courts four times, with the Will declared invalid then valid then invalid again.
Why? Because although those present at the time of the signing swore that Mr Lavin had signed the document himself (whether or not he was of sound mind at the time is also up for debate), later evidence and testimony revealed that Mrs Liston had in fact “helped” her brother to sign it as he was so weak.
All the more reason then, to ensure that you have your Will formally prepared right now and not only file a copy but circulate copies around any beneficiaries that you have mentioned.
In the meantime, legislation is being presented to try and prevent last minute, making a will from being legally recognised.
An interesting, yet sickening case has been highlighted, whereby a woman has been charged with forgery, after inventing a Will after her partner was found dead at his home.
After finding her partner dead, Karen Phillips went on to forge a Will before notifying the deceased’s family and indicating that he had written a Will prior to his death – a Will in which it is claimed that she was to be the sole beneficiary of his Estate, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Unfortunately for the accused, the Will was obviously full of errors which raised the suspicions of the deceased’s family members during probate. They then went on to contact the police.
It is unfortunate that the man in question, particularly being the owner of a business, had not had a Will professionally prepared and several copies distributed to its principal beneficiaries and family members, before he died.
Although he was only in his forties, and so no doubt felt that he was in the prime of his life, making a will would have removed any doubt about what should happen and how his Estate should be distributed, thus preventing any probate fraud from taking place.