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Will Dispute Specialists Call On Public To Make Wills Earlier

Planning ‘Will Help Families Avoid Difficulty In The Future’


Will disputes experts are calling for people to consider plans for their assets earlier in life, after helping a client succeed in an inheritance claim related to his grandfather’s estate.

Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team acted for Rhys Knight, 37, from Farnham in Surrey, in contesting the Will of his late Grandfather, William Ronald Bicknell Searl, made days before his death.

Rhys contested the Will and was able to produce evidence which showed his grandfather had expressed different wishes than those contained in the Will, meaning he and three other grandchildren would be entitled to a share of the estate.

Chris Walton, the specialist Will, Trust & Estate Disputes solicitor at Irwin Mitchell who represented Mr Knight in contesting the Will, said: “We were delighted to help Rhys in his effort to contest the terms of the Will, but this difficult case does highlight just why it is so important for people to consider the issue of estate planning earlier in life.

“Careful consideration of how you would like your estate divided after death is vital, as it allows those involved to talk to family members about the process and agree terms that will avoid claims and estate disputes in the future.”

William Ronald Bicknell Searl died in February 2008 following a long battle with cancer.   For the final few weeks of his life, following the death of his daughter, Rhys’ mother, Marilyn, who, up until her death, had been William’s carer, William’s affairs were managed by his son David. 

After his father’s death, David produced a short, homemade, ‘deathbed’ Will outlining what were claimed to be William’s wishes, despite the fact that William had refused to provide instructions to a professional Will writer just days before.

Chris explains: “The will was very simple in its terms; it made no specific gifts, but left the entire estate to David. However, Rhys raised concerns over the Will produced by his uncle as he had been told by his grandfather that he wanted the estate divided in a different way.

Only then did David mention his further discussions with William in which William apparently said that “four grandchildren should receive £20,000, a debt relating to Rhys’ mother should be waived, cash in bank accounts could be divided between Rhys and his brother Lee.”

Following the revelation of this ‘Secret Trust’ and the assessment of both medical and witness evidence, Irwin Mitchell and Rhys were able to negotiate a settlement with his uncle over the terms of the Will.

“The evidence produced in support of Rhys’ claim was sufficient to cast doubt on the validity of the Will, meaning it was in everyone’s best interests to negotiate,” Chris added.

“However, the complications seen in this case could have been avoided if a Will had been drawn up much earlier in William Searl’s life. He would have perhaps had a chance to sit down with his loved ones and outline clearly what his wishes would be, as well as who he wanted to be responsible for carrying it out.”

Chris concluded: “While many people prefer not to think about what will happen after they die, we hope that this case highlights just why such difficult decisions are best tackled earlier on in life before illness can make it much harder to ensure your wishes are fulfilled.

“Such a move can also guarantee that you spare your loved ones the heartache of a complicated, time-consuming and expensive legal battle when you have passed away.”

If you are involved in a will dispute or need further information about contesting a will, please visit our Will, Trust & Estate Disputes section