Solicitors are always advising their clients that it is important to have a Will. If you die without a Will your nearest relatives would have to petition the court to be appointed as your executors which can cause delay and additional costs. Although your spouse or civil partner do have certain rights if you were to die intestate , they will not always receive your entire estate and co habitants and friends have no automatic entitlement to inherit.
However, not only is it crucial to have a Will, but that Will needs to be clearly drafted and contain no ambiguities. This message was recently publically emphasized in an English case. Joan Edwards, a former nurse, who died when she was 90 left her estate amounting to £520,000 to “whichever Government is in office at the date of my death for the Government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit.” She died in 2012.
Miss Edmond’s estate was initially divided up between the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats. The Tories received £420,576 while the Lib Dems received £99,423. The bequest had initially been interpreted to mean that Miss Edwards’estate was to be used as a party donation. But there was an outcry. The former Labour Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott said the parties “must hand back” the cash, while Ian Austin a Labour backbencher urged them to “do the decent thing.” Conservative Zac Goldsmith also joined in the criticism saying no one could believe “this lady wanted her money squandered on electioneering.”
Despite the wording of the Will being unclear, Cameron and Clegg ordered the parties to return the funds to the estate to then be passed on to the Treasury. They decided that the wishes of the deceased were paramount and that they did believe her intention was to benefit the nation rather than any particular political party. This was supported by friends of Miss Edwards, a church goer whose career as a nurse included spells as a midwife. Her next door neighbour Lucy Sanders is reported to have said “I would think she would have wanted the Government to do something good with her money, something to do with looking after children as she did.”
So just having a Will is not enough as this case illustrates. It is essential that the wording of the Will reflects the Testator’s intentions without ambiguity. Solicitors in our Private Client Department write Wills for all types of clients with different financial and family circumstances.
If we can help please contact Kathryn Bready – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lib Dems and Tories hand back £520,000 bequest after outcry (theguardian.com)