The papers recently reported on a very sad case of fact imitating classic fiction. The Court of Appeal recently ruled in the case of a contested Will which had disinherited one of the children of the deceased when she died in 2009. In what was a rather bitter victory, the disinherited child won both in the initial case, and when it went to appeal in 2012, but the estate had been all but exhausted by the legal costs. So what went so terribly wrong?
Mrs Burgess’s previous Wills left her estate to be divided between her three children, Peter, Libby and Julia. However Peter and Julia appeared to have had a falling out, and in 2006 Julia took her mother to see her own solicitor to change her Will. Even though the solicitor was experienced, he allowed Julia to be present at his meetings with Mrs Burgess, and his record of their initial meeting was not written for more than three weeks after their meeting.
As a result of evidence heard at the initial trial, the magistrate decided that the Will had reflected rather too much of Julia’s wishes than her mother’s and overturned the Will. Julia then appealed that decision and lost. Mrs Burgess’ previous will, dividing her estate equally was reinstated. But of £200,000 initial value, barely any was left.
At first glance the moral of this tale is that even solicitors can get things wrong. This is true. But we at Mayo Wynne Baxter are always keen to learn from our own, and other people’s mistakes. That is why we will always aim to see clients on their own when making their Will. Even if a family member or friend accompanies them to the office, we like to make sure that we are doing exactly what our client wants, not what someone else thinks is best for them. We also take notes during our meetings and encourage our clients to complete a comprehensive questionnaire to gather details of their circumstances. What some may think of as nosy questions, we see as thorough enquiry. We hold ourselves to high standards, and aim to get a draft Will, and comprehensive summary to our clients for approval within a few days of taking instructions.
This poor family have spent all the money there was and 3 years bitterly arguing over their mother’s estate. If it can be this difficult to get right as a professional, imagine the possible pitfalls if you try to do it yourself!
Please contact a member of the team to see how we aim to protect your estate.
By Fiona Dodd