Case Analysis: Avoid a dispute and use a solicitor to make a Will

In the last few weeks the case involving a retired wealthy BA pilot, Chris Burgess has been reported in the media.  I can’t help but read this case and feel that had his mother, Mrs Freda Burgess, sought professional independent advice, litigation could have been avoided.

In 2012, Jim Burgess (a former solicitor and Judge) died leaving his estate to his wife, Freda.  Whilst watching a  football match with his son, Chris, Jim told Chris that “Cathy and Jennie [his daughters] were not as secure financially (as Chris)” and that Jim and Freda were changing their Wills which meant Chris would receive 20% of their estates, and his sisters 40% each.

Following Jim’s death, Freda went to live with Chris and his family, and was supported by them until her death.   In 2013, before she died, Freda asked Chris to shred the 2012 Will on the basis she felt it was unfair to him and a new Will was prepared by Chris leaving the estate equally between the three children.   Freda died in 2016 at the age of 90 and the children went on to litigate over her estate until last month’s court hearing.

The sisters challenged the validity of the 2013 Will on the basis it had not been properly witnessed (there was only one witness).   The Judge held that the 2013 Will was not valid however as the 2012 Will had been revoked (shredded), the intestacy rules would apply.

The outcome would have been much simpler and less costly had Mrs Burgess sought professional independent advice before changing her Will.  The advantage of instructing a solicitor includes evidence of intentions being discussed and recorded, ensuring this is understood and that the testator has capacity to make the Will, before ensuring the Will is executed correctly.

If you would like to review your Will, or to discuss Estate Planning generally please contact our Wills and Estate Planning Team on 01256 320555 and we can offer you a complimentary 30 minute appointment to see me or one of my colleagues in the Wills and Estate Planning Team.

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