Those thinking of changing or updating their wills are being advised on the importance of leaving a letter of wishes or a ‘witness statement’ to help overcome any future family dispute.
Specialist wills and probate lawyer Andrew Chandler has issued the alert after seeing far too many families torn apart due to a lack of clarity after changes to a will.
The contested wills expert from Midlands law firm mfg Solicitors has advised people to ensure there was a comprehensive letter of wishes, backed up by evidence, which could be kept with the will to justify why any change has been made.
He said: “It can seem entirely reasonable to want to re-draw a will when a family member has let you down but there are repercussions that can have an enormous impact, even after death.
“In my experience this can often be a knee-jerk reaction and it can cause severe emotional upset due to a lack of clarity over an estate – especially when the new will isn’t backed up by a formal letter which confirms any wishes.
“In recent months I have seen too many cases where that lack of clarity has resulted in not only costly and time-consuming court proceedings, but a stressful time too.”
Mr Chandler added: “A formal letter of wishes won’t stop a challenge being made but it can make sure that those who are meant to benefit have the strongest possible evidence to settle the matter.
“It’s fair to say no-one makes a will expecting their loved ones to fight about it after they die. The whole point of the will is to make sure their estate goes to the people they intend to benefit. So it’s vital to get it right and take advice.”
This year mfg’s Contentious Probate department, which includes Mr Chandler and colleagues Robert Weston and Suzanne Lee, was rated as one of the leading specialist teams in the West Midlands.
Readers looking for advice on contested wills can contact Mr Chandler through firstname.lastname@example.org