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Suspicious will - or does it sound acceptable?

(24 Posts)
Sweetpea33 Thu 27-Mar-14 13:49:21

Apologies for the vague-ness of this as it is my friend who has the possible problem .. not me.
His aunt recently died and he and his wife were the closest relatives (in the amount of time he spent looking after her and her house etc). The aunt often mentioned that they would get 'this, that & the other' when she died. It now seems that her latest will was written about 30 years ago and she leaves the bulk of her estate to her solicitor who drew up the will. He is now dead and it seems his offspring will inherit instead. There are also small provisions for her neighbours at that time (who she hasn't seen or been in contact with for over 25 years.

Perhaps I have a suspicious mind but it seems a little bit strange to me.

Collaborate Thu 27-Mar-14 14:19:54

I'm not sure that a solicitor is allowed to do that. Take some legal advice.

ajandjjmum Thu 27-Mar-14 14:36:24

Do check it out. One of DH's aunts died having said that she had left something for various children - our own included. She'd actually told her brother (FIL) that she'd re-done her will the Christmas before she died. The will presented by the solicitors didn't portray what she'd said at all, but we felt that it would seem grabby to be pushing it. Furthermore, the solicitor wouldn't let her family have access to her house after she died, as he was protecting the charity she'd left most of her money to. Was all a bit odd, and I know that DH now wishes he'd explored further.

AntoinetteCosway Thu 27-Mar-14 14:39:40

Does sound odd. I would think that it wasn't legal to leave the contents of your will to the person drawing it up...at the very least I'd expect that you have to have someone else in the firm draw it up. Was the solicitor a family member/friend?

AntoinetteCosway Thu 27-Mar-14 14:40:26

(I am not a lawyer by the way-that is purely my assumption.)

Sweetpea33 Thu 27-Mar-14 14:41:20

Thanks for responding Collaborate and ajandjjmum - I should have also said that he has either been left with a token amount or nothing rather than what his aunt had implied / promised. He does have access to the house and I have stressed that it is probably advisable to check all her paperwork for a more recent will.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 27-Mar-14 14:44:13

I'm not sure if it's illegal but sure as heck its unethical. I found this:
'The solicitor must act professionally and if he is likely to benefit under the Will he should have the Will drawn by a different solicitor to himself i.e. from a different firm.'

'All solicitors are bound by their rules of professional ethics as laid down by the Law Society's code of conduct/practice. If you have a grievance you should contact the Law Society. '

It seems like a case where a challenge to the will might well be successful - certainly worth pursuing.

Sweetpea33 Thu 27-Mar-14 14:45:56

Antoinette - thanks - he certainly wasn't a family member and from what I understand he was the local solicitor at that time (did a conveyance previously - that sort of thing). She had a brother who has been left very little as well but her main relative to rely on was my friend and his wife.

starfishmummy Thu 27-Mar-14 14:59:42

A lot of people tell relatives they're mentioned in the will when they're not.

It does sound dlgu about the solicitor benefiting if he drew it up, but presumably whether it is would depend on the laws/professional ethics of the time.

And even if that will is overturned then your friend still might not benefit if there are closer relatives to inherit.

Sweetpea33 Thu 27-Mar-14 15:12:46

Thanks Starfishmummy - but what does dlgu mean?

poocatcherchampion Thu 27-Mar-14 16:12:57

dodgy I expect!

Viviennemary Thu 27-Mar-14 16:18:50

I agree that a lot of relatives do tell people you'll get this and that and it's not in the will. But I'd be very very suspicious of this will drawn up by a solicitor when he is the main beneficiary. I think your friend would get something if this was challenged. I'm not a legal person.

starfishmummy Thu 27-Mar-14 19:38:41

Yes sorry dodgy!!

Nappaholic Thu 27-Mar-14 21:22:24

Not an expert on "wills and probate" but you're welcome to my thoughts...

1. Nothing illegal or improper about benefitting the will writer, as long as s/he doesn't witness the will.

2. There IS such a thing as "proprietary estoppel" however. This is sometimes available where someone relies on a promise made by another, so that they are substantially "out of pocket" in financial or other terms...see this article for more info... You may need to cut and paste the link - not good at the tech bit!

http://www.step.org/proprietary-estoppel-looking-both-forward-and-back-after-thorner-v-major

Fantissue Thu 27-Mar-14 21:51:28

Nappaholic there is something very dodgy about benefiting the solicitor who drafted the will according to the SRA Code of Conduct - it is a flagrant breach.

Nappaholic Thu 27-Mar-14 23:30:51

It's been going on for years Fanta....prob very common 30 years ago. Frowned on these days so there is more guidance now, but it's not illegal. And will-writing isn't limited to solicitors - although at least they HAVE a code of conduct...and insurance!

Fantissue Fri 28-Mar-14 10:28:10

I didn't say it was illegal - I said it was a breach of the Code. Having been a solicitor for over 10 years I am well aware that the Code of Conduct is not the law.

But good luck finding any solicitor who who would breach that strict liability provision - I would say it was more than 'frowned on'.

Sweetpea33 Fri 28-Mar-14 12:45:18

Thank you all for your input - much appreciated. He is going to take it further and make a complaint I think.

HerRoyalNotness Fri 28-Mar-14 12:59:26

Might she have stored a more recent will with the probate office I think it's called. It would be worth calling them to see how you'd go about finding out.

Nappaholic Fri 28-Mar-14 22:59:09

Sorry Fantissue...I was trying to keep it short..."dodgy" covers a lot of ground. Also, 30 ago, wasn't the Code written on the back of a fag packet?

OP could I respectfully suggest your relative seeks some specialist advice on the possibility of proprietary estoppel as well? Most solicitors offer an initial freebie where you can sound out whether they are indeed specialist? A testamentary trust specialist would be favourite! If you feel up to it, there are resources online if you google the term proprietary estoppel.

OurMiracle1106 Fri 28-Mar-14 23:02:22

Even being witness to a will that leaves an inheritance to you can void your right to that

Nennypops Sat 29-Mar-14 16:16:05

OurMiracle, that's because the law specifically states that a will can't be witnessed by a beneficiary. It doesn't say that it can't be drawn up by a beneficiary.

babybarrister Sun 30-Mar-14 11:18:55

You would also need to consider the exact wording of the will as it is possible that the deceased solicitor did not have the right to pass on his share to his dependents .....ie the gift might fall away and go back to being dealt with under the intestacy rules - PM mumblechum and ask her!

babybarrister Sun 30-Mar-14 11:22:08

www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/ihtmanual/ihtm12042.htm

More likely that gift to solicitor has failed if already dead .....

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