At Emmersons Solicitors we see all sorts of wills drafted by individuals themselves or by family members. We are usually presented with these when a client wishes to challenge the estate of a recently deceased family member.
We have come across all manner of tricks over the years. In one case an adult child had a will drafted by a friend who worked in a solicitor’s office. They then allegedly took the will to their elderly mother who was in hospital at the time. We were presented with the will after the death of the Testatrix. Our client was suspicious that the will was not genuine. We were able to prove that the his mother was unconscious on the day the will was “signed”.
It is necessary to have a will witnessed by two other people who should not be beneficiaries, or this will invalidate it. The witnesses must be present at the same time as each other and at the same time as the person who is making and signing their will. In this case it transpired that one of the witnesses had not even seen the lady when she signed her will. It had been brought to them by the relative and they were simply asked to sign it.
Needless to say the will was found to be completely invalid. This is an extreme case where one adult child was clearly trying to defraud the other. However, if you decide to make your own will you can easily make mistakes. If the correct procedure is not followed then your will can be challenged by anyone not happy with it.
When I see clients I am quite happy for them to bring a relative along to their first meeting. Some older clients can easily become confused and it can help if there is someone there to explain things. However, I always make sure that I then see my client alone. I need them to tellme in their own words what their instructions are. This is important as it establishes whether they have the mental capacity to make their will and it also lets me see if they are happy with the choices they made whilst their relative was in the room.
It is important to establish background facts
In one case I was informed that a family member had already received £10,000 from our client. Therefore the will was to be drafted so that the other child received the first £10,000 of his estate and everything thereafter would be split on an equal basis. However, when I asked for proof it transpired that £2,500 had already been paid back to our client. The will needed to be drafted so that only the amount outstanding at our client’s death was to be deducted.
This is a very common scenario and one which has just been dealt with by the courts in this country. Unfortunately to test the validity of the will meant that family members used up most of the inheritance in legal fees!
Don’t leave your family to quarrel with one another after your death. Make sure that your will is clearly drafted with evidence to support your decisions.