May 23, 2014

Negligence by solicitors preparing a Will

Wills are vitally important documents which allow people to decide to whom they want to leave an inheritance. Negligence by solicitors preparing a Will may result in the wishes of a person not being met after their death and intended beneficiaries losing out on their rightful inheritance.

Fortunately, there are options for beneficiaries in these circumstances. One option where a mistake has been made in the preparation of a Will would be to ask the Court whether, in the circumstances, the Will can be interpreted in a different way or the mistake corrected. For example, if it was clear that a deceased person wished to leave 50% of their estate to a family member, but the solicitor mistakenly recorded 5%, the Court may be able to order that the Will should be interpreted in accordance with the deceased person’s more likely intention.

Landmark case

However, a remedy such as this will not be available in all circumstances and it will not assist beneficiaries where the negligence of the solicitors resulted in a Will not being finalised at all. This is where a claim in negligence may become relevant. In the landmark case of White v Jones, the Court established that a duty of a solicitor drawing up a Will is not merely limited to the person who has instructed them, but also the intended beneficiaries under the Will.

The case facts

In the White v Jones case, the deceased person, Mr Barratt, had decided to remove his daughters from his Will following an argument. However, he later reconciled with his daughters and wrote to his solicitors requesting that a new Will be made to include his daughters once more. Unfortunately, the firm of solicitors took over two months to return to Mr Barratt, who had sadly died during the intervening period. The Court found that the delay by the solicitor involved was negligent and Mr Barratt’s daughters had a right to be compensated for their lost inheritance.

Do you have a claim?

If you are facing problems with a Will or inheritance due to the actions of a solicitor, then a claim in negligence will not always be the first option to pursue. However, if other remedies are unavailable, a claim in negligence may provide protection for beneficiaries who would otherwise lose out.

If you would like more information regarding professional negligence claims against a solicitor, we can offer free impartial advice. Contact a member of our team today on 0800 051 8057.

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