Our world is changing, and the Legal World in itself is developing into a wide open field, where unregulated Wills abound are causing a knock on increase in family disputes on death.
Elizabeth Young – Private Client partner and contentious probate specialist at Howes Percival:
'' The number of clients approaching us regarding the validity of Wills is increasingly rapidly. Vulnerable and isolated individuals can be more suggestible and trusting of those who may 'befriend' them and 'arrange' for them to make a new Will. Families, who have not seen their relatives as regularly as perhaps they should (in the mind of the deceased) are stunned to find they are left nothing and question the validity of the Will.
Will validity can be challenged on a number of grounds, and Howes Percival can help manage disputes collaboratively minimising both the trauma and cost of a full scale court battle. It is essential to seek help immediately. Evidence becomes more difficult to collate over time, and there are time limits that must be observed.
Wills may be invalid for a want of proper formalities. 'DIY' Wills may be incorrectly completed. In recent cases, clients were unaware that their marriage had revoked the Wills they made days before their big day, and had never been updated since, and another who had inadvertently revoked his UK Will when making a new Will in Canada, to deal with a Canadian timeshare.
Will validity is commonly challenged on grounds of lack of capacity. Despite professional guidance provided where clients have failing capacity many Wills are made without taking this in to account, leaving questions hanging over whether capacity was or was not present.
If someone has insufficient mental capacity, all is not lost. An application can be made to the Court of Protection for the completion of a Statutory Will completed on behalf of an individual lacking capacity, by their attorney or Court of Protection appointed Deputy.
Michael Jackson's estate is in dispute as some of his family believe that his Will was forged, Jimmy Saville's estate was contested, as he acquired an unknown daughter, and the late BeeGee Robin Gibb's out of court settlement may have been insufficient to prevent his former housekeeper from contesting his Will.
Where there have been failings on the part of the 'Will writer' whether professionally qualified or otherwise then they may have a duty of care that they breached making them liable to disappointed beneficiaries. Howes Percival's litigation team are also experienced in dealing with professional negligence claims and can assist clients in recognising when this may have occurred.