Being left out of a will, feeling blue and confused

(162 Posts)
Newbizmum Tue 24-Jul-12 01:18:17

Our mother died some months ago and it appears there was a change to the will a couple of months before she died, leaving around 98% of the estate (£300k) to my brother and his child with my children and I receiving just a few thousand. Previously the wills of both our parents and then my mother left it 50/50 to my brother and me.

I'll be honest and say that since the somewhat unexpected death of our mother, there have been occasions when the mind has wandered down the road of thinking what we would do with any inheritance. I certainly have not been mentally allocating it for things but rather like a daydream about how you would spend a reasonable but not jackpot lottery win, things like private schooling, perhaps a larger house and so forth.

My brother was initially very communicative but then changed and now doesn't want to discuss it, simply pointing me in the direction of the solicitors. I obtained a copy of the will only after searching the Probate Registry as neither he nor the solicitor would give me a copy.

It had always been an equal split, even before any wills were written but I didn't really consider what would happen because I enjoyed my parents being alive. Reading the will the other day made me feel sick, like I have not felt since I cannot remember when. I feel somehow less loved, second rate, if that makes sense ?

Aside from the mismatch, it worries me that this change, via a codicil, is full of typing errors, spelling and grammatical mistakes and is simply printed on blank A4 paper. All the other wills and codicils were written by the solicitor.

Perhaps because I feel this way I have come to thinking that perhaps this codicil is not real or worse, has been concocted. It appears signed with a reasonable signature (not the clearest photocopy) but the witnesses were just people down the street. I do not even know if this was ever given over to the solicitor but I somehow doubt it as there is no sign of a receipt stamp, which it would surely have.

Do I feel cheated ? yes, in a way. I didn't think this situation would arise for at least another decade but I also always assumed everything was as it had been discussed.

I can't think how the family could be mended after this. If my brother takes it all then it will leave a bitter pill and yes, some pangs of jealousy, which I know to be bad but I can't deny it. I certainly don't feel like going cap in hand. Yet if the feelings surrounding this strange codicil do not diminish, am I prepared to take it further and ask my own solicitor to investigate ? I simply do not know.

I think I could have taken it, albeit it with a little disappointment, if my mother had said she wanted to leave everything to my brother but this seems totally out of character. Even sidestepping the inheritance percentages, I "know" my mother would not make up this codicil at home, she was far too particular to leave anything like that to chance and I cannot envisage her signing something so full of errors, she being a school teacher after all. She certainly could not have made it herself as she didn't know how to type and didn't have a computer or printer.

Sorry for the long post but I don't really know where to turn as my brother has seemingly cut me out of his life. Yet if it has been done without my mother's knowledge or intention, the repercussions would be terrible.

How do I get over this and get back to feeling how I did before ?

Matesnotdates Tue 24-Jul-12 01:28:22

You need to see a solicitor to see if the will is legal.

You have my sympathy - it's a body blow when this happens. You can't stop thinking - why?

suburbophobe Tue 24-Jul-12 01:36:19

I agree, you need to get your own solicitor to check this out, sounds all too weird....

Don't let them screw you out of what is yours by right. If your mother wanted different (to what it looks like now), she would be horrified, so go for it.

sleeplessinsuburbia Tue 24-Jul-12 02:36:23

I''d be really concerned without any guilt. My family has experienced a few dodgy inheritances without questioning it to keep the peace. In the last fewonths of my grandma's life she stressed a lot about her will because she had seen the system abused which was horrible to watch. I now believe you have a duty to make sure what she wished for happens and without even knowing you I feel this is out of character for a normal, functioning mother.
I would be very calm and ring the brother and state that you are concerned about the new will and will be asking a sicitor to investigate it. Before that I would visit the witnesses with your copy and ask general questions about her frame of mind at the time (if she actually did it).
You have nothing to feel guilty about.

ImperialBlether Tue 24-Jul-12 23:31:06

You definitely need to get solicitors onto it.

Did your mum suffer from dementia at the end?

What was your brother's response? Is he in debt? Did you notice beforehand he was planning to spend more than he was expected to get? Has he ever had a problem with drugs or with gambling?

This was how Harold Shipman was caught out, you know. A patient was a private secretary before she retired and her daughter said how much she prided herself on her typed work. When she saw the Will - full of spelling errors etc - she knew her mum hadn't written it. Also there were people left out who she knew her mum wanted to leave little things to. It basically said "I leave everything to Harold Shipman."

ImperialBlether Tue 24-Jul-12 23:32:02

Does your brother live locally to your mum?

I think you are quite right to doubt the will and I would engage a solicitor immediately.

No school teacher without dementia is going to leave a codicil with a load of spelling errors. If I were you I'd be interested to see the original.

MotionOfTheOcean Tue 24-Jul-12 23:40:13

You say the Solicitor refused to give you a copy of the will,this would set alarm bells ringing for me as a beneficary is entitled to a copy of the will.Please get some legal advice.

toysoldiers Tue 24-Jul-12 23:41:12

Talk to a solicitor. DH's uncle forged his father's will leaving him everything.

This was to stop anyone finding out that he had already got the how signed over when DGF was suffering from dementia.

A codicil would normally used to add the odd change, maybe a bequest added or division of possessions. Very odd one would be used to fundamentally alter beneficiaries, especially of not drawn up by same solicitor.

ImperialBlether Tue 24-Jul-12 23:45:56

I would lay bets on your brother having a problem with gambling or other such debts.

CointreauVersial Tue 24-Jul-12 23:47:43

Was there any falling-out with your mother? Did she feel that your brother was perhaps in greater need of the money?

I understand why you are feeling devastated; not just because of the money but because of a perceived notion that you matter less than your brother.

You should certainly investigate this, but try to maintain a good relationship with your brother.

sleeplessinsuburbia Wed 25-Jul-12 01:31:16

Agree with imperial. Sorry.

Newbizmum Wed 25-Jul-12 03:28:17

Thanks for all the nice comments. I'll try to cover some points raised.

My brother is very insistent that our mother was totally alert until the end. However, when chatting in the last six months in person and on the phone, the conversation was repetitive with her recounting things to me as if for the first time, when the same items of news were talked about previously, sometimes many times before. This wasn't just a recap of events but delivered to me as the exciting news of the last week or weeks.

I talked about this with my husband but you don't think you need to have a full medical examination just in case, for later on, so to speak. I just put it down to old age and it appeared harmless.

My brother appears outwardly ok financially but he has always had somewhat expensive tastes and even when younger, would like the BMW convertible over the more financially sensible Ford or Vauxhall. He is a multiple divorcee but retained his child and has had a stable partner for some years now. Nothing seems out of the ordinary but you never know. However, from perhaps enjoying spending one's salary on luxuries to premeditated fraud seems a large step to take.

The other nagging thing is that I have now been told my mother knew she was dying but kept it quiet from me. A deathbed change to a will, written on a hospital sheet of paper I can understand, at least to a degree, but a wholesale change would surely have been through the lawyer who drafted all the previous wills and codicils. There was apparently plenty of time and I spoke to her many times after this change was supposed to have taken place.

More specifically, the changing codicil takes great care, though with poorly drafted language and the ever present spelling mistakes, to leave a specific sum to me and a smaller specific sum to my children. It is as if someone had googled for how a will might be challenged and then made sure to include everyone who thought they would inherit, to head off any challenge on the grounds that they had been forgotten.

Another change was in the ages at which the children would inherit. This was raised in the codicil from 21 to 25. Again, why draft this change, unless it was simply copied from somewhere else ?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist but as he could surely not be so stupid as to fake witness signatures, then any collusion must have included them. However, all the major changes in this codicil appear on a separate piece of paper, which could simply have been added in afterwards as there was, I presume, no legal record of this at the time, it not having been prepared by the solicitor.

Just to get my solicitor involved would be thousands by the time they had written here and there and digested the facts. Due to distance, I am not able to interview the witnesses, though a trip could be made specifically. I know who they are but I do not know them. A full blown challenge would cost, well, I do not know. £20,000 perhaps ? That is money I simply do not have.

My brother will now not take my calls, though I have not even raised the point that I now have the will. SMSs are delivered but not returned. I hope this is out of embarrassment and not malice but I cannot help but feel that were the shoe on the other foot and whilst I could find very good uses for 98% as opposed to 50%, I honestly feel I would just pick up the phone and say there must have been some mistake and I would order the solicitor to rectify it, to return to the status quo.

Yet during and after the funeral my brother was very insistent that everything would be done exactly as our mother wanted. I thought the comment somewhat strange but in the context of what I know now, it could be construed as scene setting, to perhaps later come out with a statement that if our mother wished him to have 98% then that is what he should do, sort of a perverse insistence in following it to the letter, a letter whose authenticity I now question.

Sorry, I know I am rambling somewhat but writing it down gives me some comfort. Thanks for the kindness, patience and understanding.

sleeplessinsuburbia Wed 25-Jul-12 03:41:26

I really feel for you, this is a shitty thing to deal with after losing your mother. Like I've already said, it doesn't sound plausible to me, and your brother's comment is doubly hmmm.

I would go to a solicitor once for advice : how to contact original solicitor, look at original will, get a list of things you can do eg take a day to visit the witnesses etc. to be honest, I have had a neighbor witness something and I had to tell her my name first... People being nice do this trusting what they are told. Your bro prob just knocked on their door and said she was too ill to come out etc and they would have just signed (if he didn't forge them).
Even if it would cost a lot to go to court you don't actually have to, I'd assume if you said to your brother your solicitor expects fraud etc and it looks like most of the total inheritance will be eaten in fees he may reconsider. I'd even ask him if he has any financial problems. This will let him know that people are suspicious and he might be relieved if you offer support.
Good luck, do what your mother and father would have wanted.

outtolunchagain Wed 25-Jul-12 08:22:52

I would advise seeing a good probate lawyer,possibly one that is a member of the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners.Most will give you a free initial appointment which would at least give you an idea of whether you would have a case and what would be involved in challenging the will.In my experience of circumstances like these, often the threat of challenging the will,will result in the main beneficiary agreeing to a Deed of Variation .It doesn't take away the hurt but may help if you feel your mother would not have wanted this.

toysoldiers Wed 25-Jul-12 09:25:08

Who are the executors and has probate been granted?

The thing to find out is if it is fraud (I.e. your mother didn't write or sign it) or undue influence (he made her sign it).

If she didn't sign it and it has been forged, it won't cost you a lot. In fact, threaten to involve the police.

Undue influence is more complicated but basically, the greater the change (as in this case) the more burden there is to prove they were of sound mind. This would normally consist of your mother calling a solicitor herself, arranging an appointment and meeting him alone. The solicitor should then use their reasonable judgement.

If this didn't happen, then you would have a very strong case.

I suspect your brother is panicking. The fact that he won't return your calls suggests he knows he's been found out.

And are you really going to be able to maintain a relationship with him knit you just 'let it go'?

He has the potential to make this right. I would suggest a stern solicitors letter to him would focus his mind.

If

starfishmummy Wed 25-Jul-12 09:48:45

I find it very odd that the solicitor would not give you a copy of the will.

Remember that if the solicitors were the executors they were working for the estate and NOT your brother, so as a named beneficiary you should be entitled to see things like the will and how the estate was distributed.

When my Dad's estate was dealt with the solicitor sent each of us (brother and I) a full copy of how it had been distributed. It showed all my Dad's assets; what the solicitor had spent (funeral costs, his fees etc) and then how the remainder was distributed.

blueglue Wed 25-Jul-12 09:59:47

This is very weird indeed. It does sound like your brother has been involved in some sort of fraud. I don't know anything about this sort of stuff, but wonder if it is worth reporting to the police if the solicitor is too expensive.

If you don't get anywhere via any route, I would never speak to your brother again. I have to say that even if in the unlikely event that the will is real, your brother ought to feel guilty about the mismatch and consider gifting you some of his inheritance.

ImperialBlether Wed 25-Jul-12 13:01:53

I think I would try the police as a first port of call, actually. From what you say it is really, really suspicious.

Why would a mother who gets on well with both children leave 98% to one child and a small, specified sum to another? Why raise the age of inheritance for the grandchildren when the sum is so small? Why not use a solicitor?

If she was in hospital and said she wanted to change her Will, the nurses would contact her solicitor.

Is there a date on this 'codicil'?

ImperialBlether Wed 25-Jul-12 13:05:35

OP, I've just thought.

The original Will left everything between the two of you?

A codicil is only to make small alterations, not to totally rewrite the Will. So, if your mum made a new friend and wanted to leave her her sewing machine, she'd add it on as a codicil. If that friend died before her, another codicil would be written to give the sewing machine to someone else.

What seems to have happened there is that your mum (or someone) has replaced the original Will by virtue of adding a codicil. This isn't the point of it at all.

If your mum wasn't of sound mind when she wrote the codicil then it's not valid. If she was always okay, but perhaps a bit absent minded, then surely she would have asked for her solicitor to make any changes?

ImperialBlether Wed 25-Jul-12 13:06:46

OP, do you and your brother live in the same country? Did either of you live near your mum (when she was alive)?

We had a family friend who had her will changed in favour of a neighbour.
The money had originally been left to charities.

The neighbour had done it to two other elderly people.
No one helped, police not interested ( burden of proof) and the solicitor who granted power of attorney ( do her bank accounts were defined while she was alive) would not get involved.

It sounds as if you have a stronger case though.

* so her bank accounts were drained

I understood that once probate is granted, anyone can apply for a copy of the will.

ajandjjmum Wed 25-Jul-12 13:15:46

Do you think your brother might feel some sort of entitlement - nomatter how misplaced - if he was the one physically closest to your DM, and looking after her?

What a shitty thing for you to have to deal with. I would certainly contact an expert - presumably you need to lodge your concern promptly, so that the funds don't disappear?

Sorry you've lost your DM.

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