Several years ago, I had a client come to visit me about how to deal with an estate.The Will was a homemade one bought from a newsagents shop. The lady who made it was a widow with her own home and two adult children who did not get along with each other.Let’s call her Mrs Park. Mrs Park had written her own Will in such a way that she gave her house to her son and specific savings accounts to her daughter.The Will had been made several years before she died. She wrote it by hand and put it in a drawer and forgot about it.
The client came to me for advice, as the son was the executor.He had helped his mother to buy the house and contributed to repairs, so felt it was rightly his when she died. His sister, however, did not agree.Mrs Park had ended up by spending the money in most of the accounts she had mentioned in her Will that she left to her daughter. The result of this was that there was a large disparity between what each child would receive under the terms of the Will.
The children had a choice.They could either agree to share the money more fairly between them, or they would have to accept that the son would receive much more than his sister. This was not Mrs Park’s intention. In the end, pressure from other members of the family meant that an agreement was reached, but there was much bad feeling and resentment along the way.The legal costs were also much higher than they should have been for a relatively modest estate.
There is no substitute for a professionally drafted Will and certainly it is sensible to review your Will from time to time as years go by and especially if your circumstances change. Mrs Park probably paid a couple of pounds for her Will form from the local newsagent – but the cost and distress caused made this a poor bargain. People who make home made Wills do so because they believe that solicitors costs are too expensive. But what about the costs of solicitor dealing with an estate where there is a home made Will that is poorly drafted, may have errorson it or is hopelessly out of date? They are way in excess of what an initial consultation for a Will would have been.
Making a clear Will is more difficult than most people think; Mrs Park thought she was being fair. In the end, the result was anything but this. There is a view that if your estate is worth more than the paper it is written on i.e. a Will Pack from the local shop or stationers then it worth seeking proper legal advice.
On a final note no matter how well siblings get on with each other when it comes to estate matters they can fall out quickly with each other if there is a sense of unfair distribution. In economically difficult times more and more people are willing going to court more often to contest Wills and especially home made Wills.
If you would like to discuss making a Will, or would like to check that your current Will is still appropriate, please contact Eilish Adams on 020 8899 6620or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.