Urgent (or “Death-Bed”) Wills

In my thirteen year career as a Will Writer and Inheritance Advisor, I have only attended under these conditions on four occasions – and it doesn’t get any easier to do. As the rather “blunt” name “Death-Bed Wills” we give such Wills implies, this is a visit to a hospice or hospital to take instruction from a client who has a terminal condition which is likely to cause their death within a (usually short) specified period of time. The document is then produced immediately and taken back to the client for the Attestation (signing & witnessing) procedure.

Only last week, I had a phone call to my office from someone whom I know personally, to ask whether I would be prepared to visit a male friend of hers in a Community Hospital locally, who had recently been given a diagnosis of terminal cancer which was likely to cause death within two weeks. The scenario had been worsened by the fact that on top of this, the poor chap had contracted a chest infection which, it was felt may speed up the process even further.

I agreed to visit this man the following day at 8.30, and arrived to find a very young-looking sixty year old, sitting up in bed with various tubes attached to him. He spoke in a voice which was barely audible, thus necessitating my complete attention and concentration in order to a) hear him and b) make sure that I heard and interpreted correctly. He had never made a Will before, but had been advised by his friends, of which he appeared to have many, that given his somewhat complicated circumstances, he really should make a Will. When I heard those circumstances from him, I could do nothing but agree with their advice for he had a wife who had racked up several tens of thousands of debt on credit cards to fund her drink habit (and other addictions) plus numerous other issues which needed to be adequately dealt with. The other major issue which needed to be addressed was that of a pension with drawdown facility. My advice was that this should be nominated by “form of nomination”, which would have the effect of dealing with it as a separate matter outside the provisions of the Will. However, the complication here was that the policy provider would not accept a nomination to anyone except the spouse! For obvious reasons, my client did not want this going to his profligate wife for fear of it being swallowed by her habit.

His instructions taken and understood, I left the hospital about an hour and a half later to return to my office and prepare the final documents. A few phone calls to various of his friends had been made in the meantime and we had all agreed to meet back at the hospital at midday for the signing and witnessing procedure. The Will was correctly signed by my client and witnessed by two friends of his who were not beneficiaries.

The following day, I received a phone call at about ten thirty, advising of his death at about eight o’clock that morning.