There is no room for ambiguity in Will-writing
A recent court case involving members of a wealthy West Country family has highlighted the importance of drawing up Wills and Trusts correctly in order to prevent conflicts at an already emotional time.
The St John Webster’s are currently locked in a legal battle over who inherits the family’s 17th Century Jacobean manor house, The Priory near Taunton, Somerset. Rupert St John Webster believes the family home, owned by his late grandparents, is his after he says they assured his father the ‘family seat’ would be passed to him through primogeniture.
His two aunts and uncle, however, dispute Rupert’s claim, saying it was their parents’ intention to share the home jointly between all their children.
Sadly, the St John Webster’s are not the only family to have been torn apart over a loved one’s legacy, nor will they be the last. Linda Cummins, Head of Wills and Probate at Goldsmith Williams comments:
“Unfortunately, this is a common problem. Disputes often arise after pivotal members of the family pass away and if wishes are not outlined clearly, and Wills or Trusts not professionally drawn up, or there is any question of suspicion surrounding the circumstances in which the instructions were given, there is a real risk of encountering dilemmas that can have negative repercussions on family dynamics.
“Disagreements over estates, whatever their size, can spiral out of control as people lose sight of the bigger picture and pursue their issue as a point of principle. When this occurs people are all too often prepared to go to court which frequently ends up with the estate being eroded by legal fees.”
As this case demonstrates making a Will is only half the job. If that Will is unclear then it can often not be worth the paper it’s written on. Ambiguous wording may make complete sense to the Testator but could leave Executors bamboozled and wishes unfulfilled. Beneficiaries that are not clearly identified could result in them not inheriting their intended gift.
An experienced and qualified solicitor, like Linda, is aware of these potential Will-writing pitfalls which some unregulated Will-writers can trip over and open the gate for challenges.
“If you want to make sure the people who you want to inherit do so a Will needs to be drawn up correctly and professionally,” Linda concludes. “Instructions as to who gets what need to be clear the circumstances surrounding when and how the instructions are given need to be able to stand up to scrutiny and the Will must comply with all legal requirements to make it valid.”
Content correct at time of publication