An hour in the day of a solicitor – meeting with client “Mr A” regarding his Will

S:          So, Mr A, you would like to make a Will.  I see you have completed our Will questionnaire.  This confirms:

  • you are married with three young children;
  • your estate comprises a house in your name valued at £250,000 and you have savings of £75,000; and
  • you want to leave everything to your children.

Mr A:   Correct.  All to my children.

S:          How will your wife manage and where will she live if you predecease her?

Mr A:   She will be OK – she will find somewhere.

S:          Do you realise that she will be able to make a claim against your estate – as you have not provided for her?

Mr A:   Oh!  I thought she would benefit under the Intestacy Rules.

S:          Sorry, but these Rules ONLY apply if you die leaving NO Will.

Mr A:   I wish to leave all to my children but do not want my wife to make a claim.  So what would you advise?

S:          Apart from the potential claim your wife could make, you will need to establish a trust for your children.  They are all under 18 (infants) and therefore legally your executors have to look after the children’s entitlement to your estate until they are 18 – or whatever age you specify.

Mr A:   I do not want to set up a Trust now – I am here to do a Will.  In any case, what is a trust?

S:          I am not advising setting up a Trust now, but under the terms of your Will.  The trust will only come into existence following your death.

Mr A:   I have no intention of dying now.

S:          I quite understand, and I was not suggesting this.

Mr A:   I still want to do a Will so what do you advise?

S:          I believe the way forward would be me to draft a Will which provides for your estate to be held on discretionary trusts for beneficiaries which will include your wife and children.  By including your wife your executors would avoid a claim from her and the children’s entitlement would be looked after by your executors until they reach 18.

Being a discretionary trust your executors have a discretion in the way they act as guided by a separate Letter of Wishes which you would sign which would reflect your wishes.

Mr A:   This sounds sensible and yes, could you draft a Will along the lines you have advised.  I will need help with the Letter of Wishes.

S:          Not a problem.  I will draft a Will and Letter of Wishes based on our discussion for your approval.

If you need advice about your Will or estate planning, please contact Michael Catchpole on 01258 840507.

Steps in preparation of selling your property

If you are considering selling your property, we recommend taking some simple advance steps to ensure that your sale is ready to proceed quickly once you have found a buyer.

  1. Locate any documents relating to the property which you were given when you purchased it and any paperwork you have acquired during your ownership, for example guarantees or warranties, boiler service certificates and any planning or building regulations paperwork for work you have carried out.

If the property is mortgaged, it would also be helpful to have a copy of a recent mortgage statement to hand

  1. Decide which firm of solicitors will be acting for you and instruct them in good time. We often receive instructions to act for the seller of a property only after a sale has already been agreed and the memorandum of sale issued by the estate agents. This means that you are under immediate time pressure to complete the property information forms and collate all of the supporting paperwork about the property as quickly as possible to avoid delaying the transaction.  Instructing your solicitor in advance avoids this problem, not least because we can let you have the standard Law Society Property Information Form in readiness. This form runs to 16 pages and although the questions are relatively self-explanatory, it inevitably takes some time to complete.

By collating your documentation in advance, and instructing your solicitor in readiness, it means that your solicitor is ready to act quickly and issue a comprehensive pack of contract documentation just as soon as a sale has been agreed.

If you need any advice on a property related matter, please contact Carol Scott or Kay Chapman on 01258 840507.

What are the consequences of not having Will if you are separated from your spouse?

A recent case dealt with the situation where a bereaved woman owned a house with her long term partner, who had died. Her partner had not updated his Will following his separation from his estranged wife and, as a result, his share of the house went to his estranged wife.  At Court, the Judge in the case ruled in favour of the long term partner.  Even through the matter was eventually resolved, the bereaved woman said that the experience had been traumatic.

The Court case could have been avoided if her partner had made a Will. It would have avoided additional stress at a time when someone is already dealing with the grief of losing a partner.

The case highlights the importance of having a valid and up to date Will. It is important to seek legal advice where any property is co-owned, particularly where couples do not get a divorce but separate.  This is increasingly the case as people prefer to avoid the expense of getting a formal divorce.

If you have any matters that you would like to discuss, or you would like advice on, please do not hesitate to contact Michael Catchpole or any member of the team on 01258 840507.