Family relationships are often strained and, as a High Court case showed, executing a home-made will without the benefit of legal advice is sadly often an effective means of promoting bad blood between your loved ones after you are gone.
The case concerned a woman whose family had been afflicted by grievances going back decades. She signed her will about 14 years before her death. Although she gave great care and thought to the contents of the document, she did not enlist a professional to draft it. Her estate was worth about £233,000.
Disagreements arose within the family as to the meaning of the will which required resolution before one of her three sons, acting as her executor, could set about distributing her estate.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that doubts as to the correct interpretation of the will had perhaps arisen from the absence of professional drafting. On analysis, however, its terms were unambiguous and perfectly straightforward.
After making modest bequests to charity, the Court found that the woman’s intention was to divide her estate into three equal parts, one for each of her sons. Two of those parts were then to be subdivided so as to make provision for a number of her grandchildren who were named in the will. Grandchildren who were born after the will was executed were not entitled to benefit from the estate.
A further difficulty arose in that another of the sons had announced his determination to challenge the will’s validity. He said that he also intended to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 seeking reasonable provision from the estate for those grandchildren whose birth post-dated the will.
The Court directed that the estate should be distributed in accordance with its ruling unless the objector launched the threatened proceedings within 28 days. He was ordered to pay the legal costs incurred by the executor to date on the indemnity basis. If those costs were not paid prior to distribution, they would be taken from the objector’s share of the estate.