Vincent crowley solicitor
WHERE THERE’S A WILL ….THERE’S LIKELY TO BE A DISPUTE.
Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr
Wills can often be contentious leaving someone unhappy about the outcome.
I have experienced many cases of this arising and a belief that the person making the Will has been got at, or that someone has exerted undue influence on that person. While most people are fairly shrewd when it comes to making a Will, there are others who are vulnerable and can be pressurised. Solicitors should in general be vigilant in this regard and unfortunately, this is not always the case.
I remember the story of a very nice old lady who assured lots of different people that she had put them in her Will, perhaps in the hope that they would help her in her old age. She did indeed put them in her Will, at one stage or another, but as they fell out of favour, or failed to look after her, she had them removed from her Will by making a new Will. Needless to say, when her final Will was produced there were a lot of disappointed Beneficiaries and a feeling that the old lady had been got at to change her Will – which was not in fact the case. I always say that the fact that someone is unhappy with a Will is not grounds for challenging it, but some people will try anything in this regard, in particularly if they are to benefit significantly if the Will is set aside.
One case I recall relates to a relation who, if the story is to be believed, was so good to the deceased that it would bring tears to your eyes and who went on to claim that when the deceased made the Will – which strangely left the claimant out – she was so distressed at the passing away of another close relation at the time that she did not know what she was doing. It was only when a previous Will was produced, which had also strangely enough left out the claimant, that the case was dropped.
Other people are suspicious when a Will is changed just before a person has passed away. However this does not necessarily mean that
there was undue influence exercised or that they were pressurised by a third party. In many cases, if a person becomes aware of their impending death, this directs the mind and gives them cause to reflect. Of course, if that person is not capable of understanding what they are doing, then the Will should not be made. In the case of there being any doubt, then confirmation as to soundness of mind should be sought from the Doctor treating that person.
In relation to elderly people there is a high duty of care on the Solicitor drafting the Will to ensure that the person is of sound disposing mind and is not being unduly influenced or pressurised into doing something they don’t want to do. In a number of cases I have refused to act if I am suspicious of the circumstances. In one case that comes to mind, I remember a daughter who brought her elderly mother along to make a Will but was not happy with the fact that I was insisting of taking instructions from the mother on her own. She informed me that she was taking her mother to a proper Solicitor – presumably one who would let the daughter run the show.
Many times I will get a phone call from a third party telling me that another party wants to make a Will and then going on to say what that person wants to put in it. In those circumstances, I have to patiently explain to them that I cannot take instructions from them and that the request for the making of the Will must come from the person who wants to make it. I will also insist on taking instructions from that person on their own – except in the case of a husband and wife coming in together. I am always suspicious of someone who hands me a sheet of paper drawn up by someone else.
I would hope that all of my colleagues would be diligent and follow the correct procedures in making Wills. In appropriate cases they should be brave enough to refuse to draw up a Will if they are not satisfied, or are suspicious that all is not well. Sadly this is not always the case.
LegalEagleStar . Wednesday. 6th. July 2011.