We all know of the importance of making a Will but, as Aretha Franklin's family have realised, we do not always consider the importance of advising those closest to you that you have made a Will and ensuring that they are aware of where the original is stored.
This is brought home by the case of the late singer Aretha Franklin. The singer sadly died in August last year at which time her family had said she had not left a Will.
However, new reports in May reveal that Aretha had in fact made three Wills, all hand written. Two of the Wills were found in a locked cabinet after the key had been located and the other was found behind some cushions in the living room.
One of the Wills was written in a spiral bound notebook, the writing was hard to decipher and there were many adjustments and notes made to it. The case is now proceeding through the courts to determine the validity of the Wills. For more information on challenging the validity of a Will please visit our Contested Probate section
For us this case highlights three main things to ensure when making a Will:
1. The Will should be professionally drawn up
A professionally drawn Will eliminates issues over illegible handwriting and misinterpretations of phrases or words. It also ensures that there is a professional advisor's file of papers to refer back to if clarification is required about what the person actually wanted and why. This can be invaluable in the event of a family dispute over the terms of the Will.
2. The Will should be stored in a safe and secure location
This will ensure that, unlike Aretha Franklin's Wills which took almost nine months to discover, a Will can be processed without delay and distress for the family. All Wills made by ourselves are stored free of charge in our secure Will storage facility. Clients are given a copy of their original Will to keep at home
The copy Will makes it clear that the original is held by us so that the family know who to contact. We also go a step further by registering our stored Wills with Certainty, the only National Wills register. This enables family members to search online to discover the existence of their loved ones Will.
We urge all of our clients to at least notify their family that they have made a Will and to tell them where the original Will is stored.
By following these three steps you can ensure that your affairs are dealt with smoothly and efficiently. This will avoid unnecessary delays and costs in trying to find out whether there is a Will and if it is actually valid.
Planning for the future is not always pleasant, but putting legally binding arrangements in place now can prevent stress and expense for your loved ones in the future.
Our Private Client Team have been recognised as one of the leading private client departments in the region by Legal 500 UK, and are able to prepare a Will and Lasting Power of Attorney for you that reflects your personal wishes and requirements.
In addition to these services, we also offer related expert estate planning, tax and trust advice.
This article was written by Claire Buttress, Senior Associate in the Private Client Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of May 2019.