The importance of ensuring safe storage of a signed will cannot be overstated. If a person dies without making a will, their estate will be divided up in accordance with the intestacy rules. This is a strict list of entitlement which broadly follows the bloodline of the deceased. A recent case highlights the importance of ensuring safe storage of a will.
Once a will has been made, the testator can change their mind in relation to entitlement and can make a subsequent will. Indeed, many people regularly change their wills during their lifetime. It is thus essential on death to ensure not only that a will is found but also to establish, in so far as possible, that that any will is the last will and testament of the deceased.
A recent case saw an argument between siblings in relation to inheritance of a family farm. Two brothers and their sister inherited a farm worth £6 million. Unfortunately, one of the brothers died in an accident aged 35. It was thought that he had not made a will. Accordingly, his £2m share of the farm passed to his 82-year-old mother under the terms of the intestacy rules. The deceased's brother and sister did not have an automatic entitlement under the intestacy rules because the deceased was survived by his mother. In turn the mother handed her share to her remaining son.
The sister then discovered that her brother had indeed made two wills. In a twist which would not look amiss in a detective novel, the most recent will was only discovered when a solicitor's cat knocked over a pile of papers were due to be shredded, revealing the most recent will. As a result of its discovery, the High Court awarded the sister a £2 million inheritance.
Whilst is the case is undoubtedly a sad one because it involves a family argument, it also highlights the importance of ensuring that wills are properly stored by solicitors and that every effort is made to find a will when someone dies. It is often advisable to speak to a probate specialist when someone dies. Often a copy of the will will be retained with the deceased's papers. This will usually indicate whether the will is held at a law firm or a bank. There are other investigations which can be made and the above case is a salutary reminder to all concerned of the importance of carrying out these investigations.
To discuss this or any other wills and probate matter, contact us.