Should I Get A Solicitor to Write My Will?

The ongoing pandemic has understandably caused many people to make Wills for the very first time.  “Do It Yourself” Will-making kits have become an increasingly common means of creating a Will in recent years.  They are a cheap alternative to a professionally prepared Will.

But beware, homemade Wills may still come at a significant cost.

The recent decision in the case of Face v Cunningham has increased the likelihood of homemade Wills being challenged via the Courts.  The Court heard that the alleged Will of the late Mr Face could not possibly have been signed by the gentleman himself.  Whilst such incidents of fraud are rare, the real impact of the judgement is to reverse the burden of proof from the complainant to the estate.  In future, it is the Executors of the deceased who must take the time and trouble to issue Court proceedings to prove a Will.

This is a considerable departure from the Court’s previous position and means that homemade Wills will come under very close scrutiny in future. There is an automatic presumption that if a Will has been prepared by a Solicitor that the Will has complied with the requirements for legal execution. Home-made Wills are not afforded the same protection.

If you have a homemade Will or, like Mr Face, you have a complex family dynamic, your Will may be challenged in the Courts.  You may be able to avoid any future disputes by executing a Will prepared by a Solicitor.

Please call us on 01543 440308 if we can help.

Christmas Opening Hours

 

Our offices will be closing for the Christmas break on Thursday 24th December at 1pm.  We will re-open on Monday 4th January 2021.  

Should you need to contact us in an emergency during the Christmas period, please call Stuart on 07969 929 452.

We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happier 2021!

Lasting Powers of Attorney – Refund Fees Deadline

 

We reported previously that the Office of the Public Guardian are making partial refunds to people who had paid to register their Lasting Powers of Attorney between the 1st April 2013 and the 31st March 2017.  This was due to the Office of the Public Guardian making savings on their operating costs which weren’t passed onto the public during that time.

The OPG believes there are over a million potential refunds due but the deadline to make a claim is fast approaching.  The refund scheme closes on the 1st February 2021.

If you might be due a refund and you haven’t yet made a claim, full details can be found on the Government website https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney-refund

Applications can be made online or by telephoning the Office of the Public Guardian on 0300 456 0300 (choose option 6).

 

The Small Business Online and Copyright

On Thursday 4th June, Four Oaks Legal Services Director, Stuart McIntosh, ran an online Zoom session aimed at small businesses.  The session covered copyright issues that affect small businesses online.  The feedback from the session was fantastic, so for those of you who missed it but would like to watch it, click on the link below.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/10GEJqiLRdyz9lJHdvvsar8bKnb1kx2UN/view?usp=sharing

If you have any questions about the issues raised in the session, please email Stuart on stuart@fouroakslegalservices.com or call him on 07969 929 452 and he will be pleased to chat to you.

Stuart McIntosh and EBM are inviting you to another webinar….

After the success of last week’s webinar, Stuart is back this week with another session for small businesses.  This time the topic will be “Your Website and Social Media Output – it is your property ?”

The webinar will take place via Zoom on Thursday 18th June at 9am.

If you would like to submit questions relating to the topic in advance of the session, please email them to info@fouroakslegalservices.com and Stuart will try to work the answers into the session for you.

The Zoom details are below if you would like to join us:-

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86963046939

Meeting ID: 869 6304 6939
Password: 389454

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

 

Stuart McIntosh of Four Oaks Legal Services in association with EBM is inviting you to an online Seminar

“THE SMALL BUSINESS ONLINE and COPYRIGHT.”

Because of the pandemic, small businesses should be looking carefully at the way they do business and how they may benefit from increasing use of online facilities. Stuart McIntosh, from Four Oaks Legal Services in Lichfield, invites you to attend a virtual seminar covering some of the key legal issues that small business owners need to know in order to keep them from falling foul of the law of copyright.

Time: Thursday June 4, 2020 09:00 AM London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84227439571 

Meeting ID: 842 2743 9571
Password: 713713

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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kbBsxL5oU

Disposing of Personal Items in your Will

During our lifetime, we collect many personal items (or chattels as we lawyers like to call them), such as our breakfast bowl, jewellery, cars and, perhaps even, works of art.  We dispose of some of these items too, as they either wear out; cease to be of interest to us or when we have the New Year clear out!

 

Whilst some items will have actual value, some will simply have sentimental value but, when we die, we may want specific individuals to receive certain items.  If we list these wishes in our Will, this could create a very long document and one which would need to be updated regularly to reflect changes in what we own, as well as changes to who should receive those items, as our own relationships change. 

 

 

So, to avoid the inconvenience and cost of you having to re-write your Will, a clause can be incorporated into your Will which gives your Executors the power to dispose of your personal items in accordance with any wishes you have made known to them.  Then a separate letter can be prepared to enable you to note your current wishes.  Should you review your wishes in the future and wish to make changes, this can be done by simply updating the letter itself without making changes to the Will.

 

For more information about writing your Will, please contact Joanna Parkin or Rebecca Head on 01543 440 308. 

“Lost” Wills following Closure of Law Firm

It is not uncommon through the passage of time, that law firms re-locate or sadly close down.  This can result in other law firms inheriting their Will Banks and on occasions, this can sometimes result in the original Will Writer not knowing the current location of their Will.

The law firm who “inherits” the Will Bank will usually attempt to contact those they hold Wills for, but if those people have themselves re-located, it may mean they are unable to do so. 

It is important for clients to know where their Wills have moved to, so they have the reassurance that their Wills can be located upon death or if they need to review their Will.  Certainty – the National Wills Register can help in these situations. 

 

Mr L comments: “My Wife and I wrote Wills at a St. Albans in 1980 in St. Alban’s when we lived in that area. Later, we relocated nearly 100 miles away.  When my Wife passed away, I needed to locate our Wills. When trying to locate our Wills, I discovered that the law firm had re-located. I contacted one of my local solicitors who were able to find another registered address and phone number of the original law firm – it then came to light that the firm had actually closed down”.

 

Mr L continues: “I was then put in touch with Certainty the National Will Register and conducted a Will Register Search.  Unfortunately, our Wills had not been registered on the National Will Register but the staff at Certainty suggested I conduct a REACH Search instead.  This enabled me to search in up to three geographically targeted areas for Wills that have not been registered and would help me see if another Solicitor now held our Wills”. 

“The Certainty Will Search located a Will at a local firm in St. Albans – less than a mile away from where the original firm had re-located! I was quickly contacted by the firm. They asked me to provide a death certificate and a form of ID. Following this they confirmed that they held both mine and my Wife’s Will. It is comforting to know that I now know the location of my own Will and have the option to register it with The National Will Register to avoid the same situation occurring again.”

Registering your Will with Certainty – the National Will Register is very easy and in increasing in popularity.  In 2019, there were over 8.4 million Wills registered on the National Will Register system. 

Four Oaks Legal Services are proud members of Certainty and can help you register your Will with them

Please contact us for further details on 01543 440308.

Homemade Wills Are Ok? Aren’t They?

 

We often get asked to comment on Wills that a person has drawn up themselves or has prepared via an internet based provider.  The number one question asked is “Are they legally valid?”.  The second is “Are they worth the paper they are written on?”.

To be legally valid, a Will must be written on paper and must be signed by the person making the Will in the presence of 2 independent witnesses.  You need to have made the Will of your own free will and also you need to be capable of making a Will at the time you make it.  So if you draw up your own Will or you get one prepared via the internet and you satisfy those basic conditions, you are likely to have a valid Will on your hands. 

Question 2 “Is the Will worth the paper it is written on?” is answered with the standard lawyer’s answer of “It depends!”.  You might have a valid Will but, when it comes to your dying day, will that Will direct your assets where you actually intend?  And this is where people come unstuck……here are two real life examples.

 

Case Study 1

 

A married couple had separated but continued to live together whilst they were formalising their divorce. 

They had a child together and each agreed to not make a Will until the divorce was finalised, so that should either of them pass away during the divorce, the survivor would still inherit the other’s estate to care for their child.  The Husband however “discovered” on the parties laptop, a Will that his Wife had prepared via an internet provider.  The Will had cost £9.99 to download and left her estate to the child directly, contrary to their agreement.  The Husband contacted us as his Wife had signed this Will and it had been witnessed correctly and he was naturally worried he would lose his home if his Wife died before they divorced and settled the finances. 

We learnt from the Husband that the parties house was held as joint tenants and all their bank accounts and investments were all held in joint names.  The Wife did not actually have anything in her sole name.  We were able to advise the Husband that as the assets were owned in this way, should his Wife die, those assets would pass to him automatically as the survivor, outside of the terms of the Will. 

So, in this case, the Will wasn’t worth the paper it was written on if the Husband survived his Wife.

 

Case Study 2

 

A single lady with a sizeable estate prepared a Will with an internet provider.  The process had involved her ticking which clauses she thought were appropriate to go in her Will and completing personal details of assets and family members.  Considering she had little legal knowledge the Will was not actually too bad and it had been executed correctly, so it was legally valid.

In the Will, the lady had included a specific clause leaving her company shares in “X Limited” to a family member.  However, when we looked at the lady’s assets, we looked at the structure of the company and found that, whilst she believed she held shares in “X Limited”, the shares were owned by a holding company “X Holdings Limited” instead. The shares the lady owned were actually in “X Holdings Limited”.  Therefore, the gift in her Will of the shares in “ X Limited” would have failed as she didn’t actually own any shares in that company!  Showing again that a Will may be valid but may not be worth the paper it is written on. 

A Will is an important document, which only gets “tested” when you actually pass away and, of course, it’s then too late to change it if there is a problem.  We recommend a professionally drawn Will where full consideration is given to your family structure; your assets and what you want to actually achieve. 

 

Put a Will in place that is worth the paper it’s written on.  Contact Rebecca Head or Joanna Parkin on 01543 440 308 for further information.

Chulo to Join the Ranks!

 

You’ll all know what dog lovers we are at Four Oaks Legal and you’ll remember that just over 3 years ago, Director Beckie Head welcomed Greek rescue dog, Lena, into their home.  Lena is, of course, a regular visitor to the office, and often accompanies Beckie on her home visits too.  She has become a firm favourite with staff and clients alike.  However, Beckie and her Husband Gareth have decided to add to their family with another rescue dog.

Chulo is a 3 year old male Podenco and currently resides with the Friends of Aprop, a Spanish animal shelter, based in Pego on the Costa Blanca.  Beckie spends several weeks a year cycling in the area and when Beckie and Gareth heard of Chulo’s plight from a friend of theirs who volunteers at the shelter, they decided to open their home and hearts to another four-legged member of the family.  Chulo will be joining Beckie and the Four Oaks Legal team in December 2019.

Say hello to Chulo…….