An Unfound Will
An existing client called me recently to arrange an update to his Will, which I had originally drawn up for him three years ago. He gave me radically revised instructions resulting from his wife having left him some six months ago. He was adamant therefore that the majority of his Estate should now be given to his favourite charity, with his business being passed to his grand-daughter, as his sons had shown no interest throughout their lives in either him personally or his business.
Having cautioned him accordingly with regard to these potentially contentious new instructions, I raised the draft Will for him as instructed.
He did not respond to the draft and on making enquiries, I discovered he had suffered a stroke and was in the High Dependency Unit of a local hospital – very seriously ill. So ill in fact that he was declared physically and mentally unfit to sign the new document.
I then received a call from his “estranged” wife to inform me that he had passed away and to ask where his Will (of three years ago) was held. Unfortunately he had chosen not to store the document with me and had told me he would add it to other papers in a deposit box at his Bank.
On making enquiries, she found that the Bank was not holding his Will, nor was his accountant, who was appointed within that Will as an Executor. To this day, the Will remains lost.
This salutary tale raises some issues to consider:
1. Safe-keeping of Wills (and other important documents) is vital.
2. Tell your Executors where to find your Will & other documents.
3. Act immediately when circumstances radically change.
4. The Estate was distributed under the intestacy laws and all the people whom he specifically did NOT wish to have benefit i.e. his sons and his estranged wife received substantial sums. The one family member whom he DID wish to receive benefit i.e. his grand-daughter received nothing.
5. The case took over two years to complete.