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 ?

ImperialBlether Wed 25-Jul-12 13:32:48

Just thought. How do the grandchildren differ in terms of inheritance? I don't think your mum would have differentiated there, would she?

In any case, from what you say about the codicil it's pretty obvious she hasn't had anything to do with it.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 25-Jul-12 14:05:20

Are you all in the UK? If so, I would speak to the police. Do you have a friendly lawyer (relative or family friend) who could maybe point you in the right direction if you don't like the police option.

This sounds very weird.

TheSilverPussycat Wed 25-Jul-12 18:20:39

Toughasoldboots is right about getting the will after probate - I did so while doing the forensic accounting for my divorce settlement. It's cheap, google how to do it.

And at one point I was afraid Ex had defrauded the estate of his DM, but this turned out not to be true, thank God.

I took the bank statements and deposited them with my solicitor, and had I not been able to trace the fishy account which prompted my suspicions, I would have gone to the police. Luckily, all was well, but Op's case does sound well dodgy.

And some solicitors can be tempted sad

ImperialBlether Wed 25-Jul-12 19:02:21

Trouble is, the money's passed to the brother by then, hasn't it? If he spends it quickly that might be too late.

TheSilverPussycat Wed 25-Jul-12 20:08:41

Still worth contacting the police, or perhaps a solicitor, for advice imho.

RandomMess Wed 25-Jul-12 20:15:29

Who is the executor of the will, I believe your fist port of call is to alert the executor to the fact that the will seems out of character, seems not to be the way your mother would have behaved if she was of "sound mind" and you are concerned that she was pressurised/tricked into signing it...

JustFabulous Wed 25-Jul-12 20:32:52

I really don't think it is £20,000 to contest a will.

If it helps, a relative made a new will literally days before they died and it was properly done, with the solicitor coming to the place (can't remember what it is called. It is where you go when there is no hope of survival), and it was witnessed, signed and stamped correctly.

Ambersivola Wed 25-Jul-12 20:33:37

Hi,

I haven't read all the replies, but one thing has occured to me. If your mother was not present when the codicil was witnessed and signed by the witnwsses then the codicil will be null and void. It should not cost a lot to get the soilcitor to investigate the witnesses. Indeed it may be something the Probate Registry would be interested in.

TheSilverPussycat Wed 25-Jul-12 20:34:23

I second RandomMess's advice - unless the brother and solicitor mentioned above are the executors...

VivaLeBeaver Wed 25-Jul-12 20:37:08

The problem is if the witnesses are friends of your brothers rather than genuine witnesses. They could be in on it and then I don't know how you'd prove it.

LaVitaBellissima Wed 25-Jul-12 20:40:15

Hope you get to the bottom of it all, you shouldn't feel guilty in any way to take this further.
Sorry for the loss of your mother thanks

HoleyGhost Wed 25-Jul-12 20:41:55

In a similar situation we consulted a lawyer. One letter led the guilty person to offer a settlement. We signed away our right to challenge the dodgy codicil in exchange for a fraction of what the deceased had wanted us to inherit.

We did not have the stomach to do battle in the courts. You don't either but your db does not know this.

Viviennemary Wed 25-Jul-12 20:48:24

It's difficult to understand why you couldn't see a copy of the will when you were named on it. This would ring alarm bells for me. Sounds really dodgy. I'd definitely challenge it by getting your own solicitor. I thought a codicil was only like an extra sentence or two as somebody else said. Not a change to the whole will. And who witnessed the codicil.

TheSilverPussycat Thu 26-Jul-12 10:21:04

The fact that your brother has cut contact is suspicious.

Wills can be varied after death - google deed of variation. (We did this with a great aunt's will),

Newbizmum Sat 28-Jul-12 21:16:45

Thanks again for the comments and kind words. Again, I'll try to cover the points raised.

The executors are my brother and his latest wife. The solicitors are a local firm who have been the ones to draw up all previous wills and codicils.

I obtained a copy of the will from the Probate Registry. Neither my brother nor the solicitor would give me a copy, citing a request made in this suspicious codicil, that I was not to be informed of the death of my mother until after the estate had been dealt with. This only arouses further suspicion.

In previous codicils, the witness signatures come immediately after the reason for the codicil and immediately after the signature of my mother. In this codicil, there are 3 pages. The first page contains a clause relating to a car, which is a fine use of a codicil and it has my mother's signature. The third page only has the signatures of the witnesses. It is on page 2 where the wholesale changes are made but it looks very suspicious that this page was added later. The pages are numbered sequentially but the typeface is different and the margins do not fit, making me think the page numbers were added later by running the original codicil and the 2nd page through a printer set up to only print the page numbers on a blank sheet. The numbering of the pages effectively shows that the suspect 2nd sheet was in fact there originally but not if the numbers were added later.

I do think my brother feels more of an entitlement for sure. Yet the locality works both ways through life, what with baby sitting on the doorstep for decades, picking up small cash handouts over the years, way more physical presents for all birthdays etc. I am farther away but hardly at the end of the earth.

I also thought I was entitled to a copy of the will by right but it appears that is not so. By making me a specific beneficiary and my children too, allocating absolute amounts rather than percentages, this means I have no right to a copy of the will nor a right as to the price at which assets are liquidated. Only a residuary beneficiary has those rights apparently, where their inheritance is a percentage and therefore the prices of everything affect the eventual payout. This would appear clever.

The comment on my mother not differentiating between grandchildren is a moot one as well. The wording used is "children of my daughter ..." rather than grandchildren, whereas the child of my brother was deeded worthy of the title grandchild. This is at odds with reality and smacks of being written by someone emotionally charged at having to include my children against their wishes perhaps. I do know my brother was jealous that others would share in the inheritance he once thought would solely be his.

As time passes and I digest the facts again and again, I am finding that the only explanation which makes sense is fraud but the real question is who drafted this codicil ? It is truly so badly that it could not be my mother, nor my brother either. It is almost as if written by someone only semi literate. It is my understanding that the witnesses are non skilled manual workers and whilst this does not mean their literacy is so poor as to fashion this codicil, they are the only ones "in the frame" so to speak. My brother faking it so poorly as to cast suspicion elsewhere could be an argument but is he that clever ? Perhaps.

What has come over me in these last few days is, for me, an irrational desire to punish anyone who has conspired to defraud my mother. I don't just want a deed of variation and the splitting of the assets more equally but rather I want punishment, even if that includes jail for my brother or his family. I could never forgive, never forget and what is broken cannot be mended. If he is seeking to commit a fraud to enrich himself, then I do want the police involved and I want him arrested and shamed.

Thanks for the link for the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners. I do fear the cost of litigation because at an hourly rate in the mid £200s or nearly £300 when you add on VAT, costs reach enormous levels very quickly. Actually preparing for court is in the tens of thousands as you are instructing barristers and if you actually go to court, you are running perhaps £5000 plus a day. My figure of £20,000 was really a low ball estimate. Add together both sides and a court appearance and you will be well over £50,000, perhaps heading towards £100,000 if court time is lengthy and multiple witnesses are called. It is a truly serious and potentially life changing undertaking.

I am going to get this reviewed by a solicitor and see what advice I receive. Until then, I can do nothing and any actions I take may cause more harm than good. I'll report back afterwards. Thanks.

RandomMess Sat 28-Jul-12 21:22:05

urgh what a nightmare sad

I agree it's not about the money it's about defrauding what your Mum wanted, it's just awful.

whatinthewhatnow Sat 28-Jul-12 21:29:13

god OP this sounds a complete nightmare for you. Please do whatever you can to look into it. It does seem so unfair that because of vast expense you may be prevented from getting to the bottom of it. I hope your conversation with a solicitor is helpful. And sorry of course to you for the loss of your mum.

x

Viviennemary Sat 28-Jul-12 21:30:15

The thing is you are not just challenging the will which you think is unfair, but you are also worried that fraud or forgery has been committed. So would that not be different to just the challenging of the will.

FridayNightOlympicRing Sat 28-Jul-12 21:32:00

If I was in your position I'd rather see the money go to solicitors than stay with your brother, how awful for you to be facing this after the death of your mother. sad

The more you describe the codicil, the more it sounds like you have a good case though. Good luck with your solicitor.

HappyCamel Sat 28-Jul-12 21:33:00

Some solicitors will work on a no win, no fee or a fixed fee or capped fee basis.

TheSilverPussycat Sat 28-Jul-12 21:33:59

Is this not potential fraud/forgery and therefore a criminal matter, to be drawn to the attention of the police? Had my suspicions re my ex not been found to be wrong, that was going to be my next step.

PavlovtheCat Sat 28-Jul-12 21:35:29

I do think that, as you have suspicions this will has been fraudulantly gained, rather than your mother being coerced into it, you should have a conversation with the police and say everything you have said in here. or, if you are worried you won't be heard, write it all down in a letter and take it to them and ask to see someone get them to read it. While coercion is harder to prove, it would be much easier for the police to investigate and prove fraud, esp as they would look at previous wills and current codicils.

I am so sorry that in the midst of grief you are having to contend with a money grabbing bastard, which of course he is. As you mentioned, if this was your mother's wish for as long as you could remember, it would only seem right that he would say 'this seems odd, of course this should be 50/50 as that is what mother always wanted so that is how we will proceed'.

BlackSwan Sat 28-Jul-12 21:38:03

There are too many flags to ignore here. Your brother sounds like a thief. And the bastards left you such a small sum, they thought you wouldn't be able to finance a lawyer to challenge it. But do it.

BettySuarez Sat 28-Jul-12 21:38:28

Good grief op, sorry to sound flippant but this sounds like a case for Miss Marple. Everything that you have outlined sounds very suspicious indeed.

Good luck with your investigations and very sorry to hear about your DM sad

PavlovtheCat Sat 28-Jul-12 21:39:44

"Neither my brother nor the solicitor would give me a copy, citing a request made in this suspicious codicil, that I was not to be informed of the death of my mother until after the estate had been dealt with. This only arouses further suspicion" omg my alarm bells are ringing and I am feeling sick on your behalf sad this feels so wrong. why would that happen? why would your mum not want you to know about her death until the estate had been dealt with? that is the most bizarre request, without there being a huge and irreparable rift between child/mother, which you would then know about.

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