A cost conscious self-made millionaire decided to write his own Will distributing his £2.75 million estate. The following case details the problems of making a Will without proper legal advice.
Having settled in Britain from Eastern Europe after World War II, the man found work in a quarry. He never married and although he was one of seven children, only one of his siblings survived him. He lived a long and profitable life, had stocks and shares and owned three properties – two in the UK and one in his birth country of Montenegro.
Two years before he died he made a homemade Will which was signed and witnessed but lacked some of the formal requirements of an English Will. The man had lived in the UK for nearly 70 years and had been granted British citizenship, however, his grasp of the English language was limited and therefore the homemade Will was full of spelling and grammatical errors. It had also been damaged with the ink smudged and some of the wording covered.
Lawyers applied to the High Court seeking clarification of the terms of the Will and how the estate should be distributed. There was clarity in his bequests to his nieces and nephews. The queries included bequests to a cancer charity that did not exist and money to a friend, the amount of which could not be identified due to the damage on the document.
The Court ascertained that the man had made it clear that most of the estate should go to the Serbian Orthodox Church in London and a trust be created for the benefit of people in need, particularly the children in Kosovo. This included the properties.
Along with the properties, the church was also bequeathed the stocks and shares to be added to the trust. A specialist was able to determine the legacy to his friend was £8,000. The £10,000 for the non-existent cancer charity was split between several cancer research charities.
The Court agreed the man had mental capacity as there was no reason to believe otherwise. There were other formalities to complete to legally validate the Will and the estate could then be paid out, and any further difficulties could be resolved by agreement.
These issues would have been costly to the estate and could have been avoided had a Solicitor drafted the Will.
A Solicitor can also look after the Will in a safe place.
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