Wills and Inheritance

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Barmaid | 13:59 Sun 24th Jul 2011 | Law
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I have agreed (rather stupidly) to go and give a couple of talks on Wills and Inheritance to a local women's group. Now I am quite used to lecturing other lawyers, but this group are NOT lawyers and their only interest is as Josephine Public.

If you were attending such a talk, how could I make it more interesting for you? I was thinking of splitting it into 3 sections

1 the general stuff (ie who can and can't be an exec, what a Grant of Probate is, what the intestacy rules are, why it is important to leave a Will)
2 Some general fallacies concerning Wills and Probate - you know myth debunking and all that
3 Some funny/disturbing stories and interesting miscellaneous stuff, like the shortest will, an imposter to a will/murder case, fighting over a biscuit barrel at the RCJ late one night etc

What would YOU find interesting?


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Wills where someone was left nothing but a malediction or a solitary shilling. Human interest.
diy wills yes or no? Have you provided for your pets? (and how to)
^^^ That's assuming that you can mention someone in a will and leave them nothing but a curse.
Regarding why it is important, a story or two of how a proper will would have saved a lot of aggro one way or another.
This has been in the press recently:

Maybe you could give your opinion of will writers v solicitors and the typical costs of both and also comment on the will writing kits available in WH Smiths and other retailers.
Lots of people don't know where they should keep their will nor how to make sure it is found.

I would like to hear more about so called living wills if that would be relevant to the talk.
Handouts would be good - in particular a flow chart of the rules of intestacy.
when working in chancery I used to get quite alot of wills written on the back of get well soon cards...obviously they did not...I used to find these quite amusing....
Mention codicils and their legality if not completed correctly.

Letter of Wishes

(My personal stress when a near-one made an illegal version of both)
Barmaid - apart from slobbering at thought of the lunch you are going to have my initial thoughts are - you will know all the answers

* Why is it important to write a will?
* How do you choose excecutors & possibly make one not a benificiary i.e. your solicitor or accountant?
* Why it is important to have will written by someone with legal understanding (you will have to avoid advertising)

Will think of some more pointers from an unmarried benificaries point of view, with deceased children being executors and benificaries.
Did you listen to Jeremy Vine`s show on Friday? They were talking about wills. It`s available on iplayer. I`m not suggesting plagerism at all but maybe the format and style of discussion might be of use. They made it sound quite interesting which is a good start!
Barmaid - I will send you a copy of a badly written will (drawn up by a part time willwriter) if you can think of means of sending.
Then there's wills in literature. Jarndyce & Jarndyce and Juno and the Paycock are two that hinge on badly written wills.
i think what would help would be to cut the jargon...explain in laymans terms more...maybe even write something as a guide to explain, so that people dont get lost and start switching off...
i think the myth debunking is good...its surprising how many falsehoods people cpass around as facts or chinese whispers...
As someone who used to write wills for a living, I think that you've missed something out from your list of topics. (That's probably not surprising because it's not one that you normally have to deal with!). I refer to giving instructions (or more accurately, requests) relating to the funeral. To some people, getting their funeral arrangements in order is just as important as deciding who gets their money! (I don't share that view but I know it to be true of some people).

I suggest mentioning that any directions in the will relating to the funeral are not actually binding upon whoever arranges the funeral. (It could be worth pointing out that the best way of getting the funeral required is to pay for it in advance - but even that's not guaranteed). You might also want to refer to the impracticalities of burials at sea or in the back garden. (I wrote loads of wills though for people who wanted to be buried in a cardboard coffin, both to save money and to 'get back to nature' as quickly as possible).

How about mentioning, as well, the advisability (or otherwise) of specifying who should care for the testator's (minor) children? Setting up trusts for those children (and how the income and capital can be used by the trustees) might also be relevant.

Perhaps you could also advise against naming a solicitor as an executor? That effectively means that the value of estate will automatically be reduced through legal charges. I would regard it as better to appoint friends or family members as executors, so that they could then decide for themselves whether they needed legal help when going through the probate process.

A common question on here is "How long does it take for a grant of probate to be obtained, and the estate distributed in accordance with the will?". Yes, I know it's one of those 'how long is a piece of string' questions but I think that your audience might appreciate some general guidance on the matter.

Perhaps mention that witnesses are witnessing the signature on the document, not the document itself. (i.e. there is no need for them to read a single word of the will but they must actually see the will signed. Signing a will and then taking it to a relative's house for them to 'witness' it, is definitely not a good idea!).

Lastly, and most importantly, tell your audience that even if their will is perfectly drafted (by a Peterborough based barrister perhaps?), thoroughly checked by the ghosts of John Mortimer and Sir Edward Marshall Hall, double-checked by Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and Lord Justice Goldring, and witnessed by every single Member of the House Of Lords, it will carry no weight whatsoever if nobody can actually find it! (Some discussion of where to keep the will, and who to tell about its location, would seem to be in order!).

Barmaid, can I suggest that you put something in about the Mental Capacity Act, and Enduring Powers of Attorney? People often want to know for themselves how best to plan ahead for the eventuality that they should need decisions taken on their behalf.
Barmaid - will you let us know how your talks go?
hows about giving them an insight into the wierd and wonderful world of 18th century inventories, I used to do an hour's seminar on pre-1858 wills and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the sheer oddness and simplicity of how so called gentlemen left their 'apparel' and 'best pewter' to their son and the 'bed that I now lie in' to their daughter and their house to their wife 'for as long as she remains my widow'
explain joint tenancy & tenancy in common....recently come unstuck with that myself, cost me £1,000s...
Barmaid - guess you have seen lot's of badly written wills - lol - would provide one that took years to sort - lucky I had an excellent solicitor

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