What is one of the greatest mistakes you can make when it comes to making wills? Well, one obvious one is to ensure that if you are part of a blended family, you’ve put considerable thought into your estate planning.
The High Court in the United Kingdom overturned the conviction of a woman accused of forging the will of her late partner. Gillian Clemo insisted she was innocent of using fake documents to claim the bulk of Christopher John’s £3 million fortune. John’s estranged wife, Helen John, claimed that Clemo falsified the will the ensure that she was left out of the will, and that the couple’s daughter would not be adequately provided for under the new will.
Christopher and Helen John split in the late 1990’s and thought that their relationship had been formally ended in 2001. By then, Clemo had moved in with Christopher and became his de facto partner until his death in 2008. However, upon his death, it was discovered that the John’s divorce hadn’t been legally registered.
As a result, John was ruled to have died intestate (without a will) and the estate was due to be split between his estranged wife and daughter. However, within days, a new will was discovered which gave much of the estate to Clemo. Clemo has since had her conviction for forging the new will quashed, and the moral of this story is clear.
If a marriage ends, it must be formally recognised with a divorce decree. Always update your will when your estate or circumstances change.
This situation will almost always erupt into a court battle between the new partner and the estranged wife, particularly if the wife is concerned about their children. Often it is up to the court to decide how to divide the estate, which may be very different to the wishes of the deceased. It is vitally important to formally end one relationship, and to ensure new wills are drawn up at this point.
Common Mistakes for Wills
Unfortunately, making mistakes when drafting a will is more common than you might think. In most cases, these mistakes can lead to an estate dispute if the parties strongly believe they were unfairly treated within the will.
Sometimes, people can fail to make a will entirely. If this occurs, then your assets will be dealt with according to law, which may be very different to how you would want your estate to be disbursed. This means that it will be your dependants who will receive most of the estate, meaning that your parents or your adult children could potentially miss out on an inheritance.
In the previous case study, it was notified that you should change your will after you divorce, otherwise it may become invalid. While this is true, it is also equally important to change your will after other significant life events. If you change your will when you have a child, a grandchild or even buy a new house, then your intentions and beneficiaries will remain clear. We recommend amending your will every 2 years, because as you grow older, your will may no longer suit you or your families’ needs.
Many people who have a small amount of assets believe they can simply create their own will. However, issues arise when this occurs. In most cases, this person may not have clearly stated their wishes or don’t understand the complexity of the law for wills and estates. Therefore, it is incredibly easy for remaining family members to contest the will. It is extremely important to have a lawyer review your will, as they may find issues and be able to amend the will before its too late. Another issue that arises when you create your own will is that it may not be properly signed. Your will must be signed and witnessed properly before it is deemed valid. That is just one of many reasons why we recommend that you ignore the temptation to create a DIY will and proceed in getting a lawyer to draft your will.
It is also significantly important to ensure that you have chosen the right executors of your will. A common mistake is to choose an executor who live overseas, but this is an inappropriate choice. You should choose someone who you believe will be trusted in ensuring your will is administered correctly. This could be a very close family member or a completely objective third party who will simply only be interested in following out the directions set in your will. If you create a trust for your young children, it is important that you choose a trustworthy trustee to ensure your children or beneficiaries of the trust receive the correct amount at the correct time, as per the conditions of the trust.
If you have any enquiries about creating a will or are unsure in some areas of law, then it is important you seek legal advice. If you wish to draw a new will, or inquire about possible estate litigation, contact Mitchell Solicitors for a free 10-minute phone consultation.