I was having Sunday lunch the other day with a relative when they announced that they would like me to witness their Will. Having been in the family now for some seven years I have to say that I was not a little disappointed that we had not been consulted in this regard.
However, it turns out that a Will making company managed to persuade her and her then husband into paying a lump sum up front for which they then received Wills for life! When I say received “Wills for life”, I subsequently discovered that they were only “free” if it was within their definition of a “straight forward simple Will”. In any event the current Will was apparently to tide over as a result of a recent divorce.
Like a dutiful relative I duly witnessed the Will without being nosy enough (initially at least) to read it. However, I did happen to notice (years of legal training) a typo on the page I was signing. Further years of training led me to read the rest of the Will. It was, as reported, a simple Will leaving everything to the children, and if any of them should predecease, their share would go to their surviving children. If all the children died then my wife would cop the lot. The rest of the dialogue went like this:-
C: “S, what happens if only one of your children predeceases leaving no children”
S: “what do you mean”
C: “well it is clear what happens if they all die, and they leave a child of their own who inherits their share. What does not appear to be covered is that if one of them should die tomorrow leaving no children, what happens to their share?
J: Well it would be divided up equally between the other two.
C: No it wouldn’t, because that is not what it says. The gift over only operates if all the four children die and it goes to your sister”
S: “don’t worry about that C, it is only a Will to tide me over and that is not going to happen.”
C: “well you say that, but what about the skiing holiday you went on last week with one of your children. If (God forbid) the plane had crashed that would have left two of your children in a scenario that is not envisaged by your Will. At the very least that may trigger an application to the Court by your Executors to clarify what exactly you did mean. Did you mean that the dead child’s share goes to the other two children, or was it to go to C, or what was to happen to it?” (long pause…..)
S: “well okay, perhaps you better have a look at it after all”.
The fact is that Solicitors make far more money out of litigious Inheritance actions arising as a result of faulty Wills or inter-family disputes than they do out of drafting Wills. The cost in the latter situation is nominal. The cost of a fully fought action in the High Court could run into tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds. Any company willing and able to prepare “Wills for life” for a relatively modest fee (albeit “simple” ones) is clearly not operating with qualified staff and possibly even indemnity cover (see our previous blog for the perils of using such companies). Saving a few hundred pounds now could cost you thousands in the future.
I commend my Partner Alex Stanier and his associate Ashley Minott to you so that this situation never arises.