There will always be some people who believe that making your own will represents a sensible economy. However, as a High Court ruling strikingly showed, saving the modest expense of having your will professionally drafted may come at a frightful emotional and financial cost to your loved ones after you are gone.
The case concerned a teacher whose marriage broke down after he fell prey to severe mental illness. Prior to his divorce, he made a will leaving his estate to his two young daughters. Following his sudden death, the daughters launched proceedings with a view to having that will admitted to probate.
Their claim was, however, vigorously contested by his partner at the time of his death. She asserted that he had signed a home-made will in the year before he died by which he revoked the earlier will and left the lion's share of his estate to her and nothing at all to his daughters. The Court considered the formal validity or otherwise of the home-made will at a preliminary hearing.
Although the original of the home-made will had been lost, the Court was satisfied that its contents were accurately reflected by a draft document that was found on a computer following his death. It found on the evidence that the will had been properly executed and witnessed in accordance with the Wills Act 1837. He had not destroyed the will prior to his death with the intention of revoking it.
In ruling on the matter, the Court noted that it had been necessary for the man's ex-wife and partner to relive the sad circumstances of his death and illness in court. The inheritance dispute had contributed to a complete breakdown in relations between them. The Court expressed the hope that further issues in the case might be resolved without the need for further distressing litigation.