In this series, we explore real-life examples that our lawyers have encountered where failing to seek solicitor advice has caused clients all manner of problems. Along the way there are useful ‘takeaways’ to help you avoid making the same mistakes.
In this article, Private Client Services Partner Antony Caulfield (pictured) highlights two recent instances of problems arising from homemade Wills.
Wrong beneficiary inheriting under homemade Will
Antony recently met with clients who had prepared their own ‘homemade’ Wills. They were under the impression that, under the Wills they had prepared and signed, they were leaving their estates to each other initially and then to their children on the survivor’s death.
However, they had omitted to include the surviving spouse as a beneficiary under the first to die’s Will. This would have had the disastrous effect that the surviving spouse received nothing from the first to die’s estate. And even if their children agreed to alter the terms of the Will after the first spouse’s death, this would have still meant significant and unnecessary legal fees to rectify the situation.
The problem could have been avoided if they had taken legal advice before drawing up the will. Luckily, Antony was able to remedy the situation.
Poor condition of Will creates problems
A client instructed us to assist in obtaining a grant of probate to the estate of her daughter, who had prepared a homemade Will. Unfortunately, a staple had been inserted and removed from the Will. Our client said her daughter had stapled the Will to another document and the staple was removed after her death.
This resulted in delays in obtaining a grant of probate and additional costs, as the Probate Registry insisted on additional affidavits being prepared in relation to the plight and condition of the Will and the due execution of the Will.
This trouble could have been avoided if the client’s daughter had taken legal advice when preparing her Will. Typically, a solicitor will store a Will they have prepared in a strong-room to ensure that problems of this sort do not arise.