Monday, 23 November 2009

Willing A Way to Avoid Trauma

If ever there was a cautionary tale which best exemplifies the perils of not writing a will with an independent, professional firm, then it came in the Telegraph recently.

Following on from the much-publicised, recent case involving the RSPCA, this month a similar contentious issue involving a charity emerged.

Ten years before her death, a British woman called Mrs Southwell made a will, with the bulk of her assets going to her friend Susie Crichton.

However, as Mrs Southwell’s passing approached, she asked her social worker to draw up a will, claiming she didn’t want her assets to be passed to the Government.

The social worker contacted Help the Aged for assistance and, following a visit from the charity’s wills and legacies adviser, a new will leaving the majority of her £350,000 estate to the charity was created.

Predictably, in the aftermath of Mrs Southwell’s death, a legal tussle between her friend’s family and the charity ensued.

Ultimately, costs were awarded against the family, although this was followed by a successful appeal for a reduction.

Meanwhile a Help the Aged spokesperson said: “Mrs Southwell did change the beneficiaries in her first will when constructing her second legal will and testament.

“As a charity it is not appropriate for us to speculate on why she reached the
decision, but we utterly and profoundly reject any suggestion that pressure was
brought to bear.”

Had the deceased party – who may have been ill-advised or not in the right state of mind to write a will – contacted an independent firm with no vested interest in where the estate went, things may have turned out differently.

Of course, every case is circumstantial and no-one but Mrs Southwell truly knew her motivations or the pressure she was under.

However, it acts as a reminder of the benefits of investing in a carefully considered will sooner rather than later.