DIY Wills – The risks that could cost you more than you save
As recently reported in Henrietta Ingram & Anor v Simon Timothy Abraham & Anor 2023, not seeking proper legal advice when drawing up a Will can seem initially cost-effective. However, in the long run, this decision can lead to catastrophic implications in dealing with your estate.
This case involved a 58-year-old Jo Abraham and her two adult children, Henrietta and Tom.
Following Jo’s death from cancer in in February 2021, a homemade Will based on a template off the internet, and dated 2019, was submitted to probate. However, in 2008 Jo had previously made a Will which provided for a 50/50 split between her two children (then aged 12 and 22).
Evidence was put to the court that Jo intended her estate to be divided equally between the children but should take into account lifetime gifting (which was unequal by around £70,000). The 2019 Will appointed her brother Simon as executor and trustee, leaving him her entire estate exclusively. She had also orally instructed Simon on what she wanted him to do before she died. Simon had helped Jo prepare this Will.
The Judge considered the lengthy evidence (from friends and family) and found what Jo wanted to achieve was to secure the benefit of her estate for her children, apportioned to reflect their life-time gifts. That benefit and apportionment was then to be entrusted to Simon to implement.
It was clear that the 2019 Will did not achieve that. Simon also failed to discharge the burden of proof to establish that Jo, when she signed the 2019 Will, understood:
(a) what was in the 2019 Will when she signed it; and
(b) (more emphatically) what its effect would be.
She thought that Simon would inherit her estate to distribute it as per her orally, and repeatedly expressed wishes, to divide it fairly between Tom and Henrietta.
What Simon actually tried to do was pass Jo’s book collection to his wife Hilary, and then take all the rest of the estate for himself. Simon did not give any of Jo’s estate to her two children.
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