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Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

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  • Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

    My wife died in 2010. She was a farmer's daughter, estranged from her brother and sister-in-law following their actions relating to the Northamptonshire farm and securing the family inheritance for themselves. Her mother had been left 50% ownership of the farmhouse and 100% of surrounding fields when her husband died in the late 1990s. The rest was bequeathed to her brother, their only son. Soon after he subsequently got married, he moved his mother out of the family home and into a farm worker's cottage. He took her off to an unknown firm of solicitors in Cambridge and got her to re-write her Will, Unknown to my wife or her sister, signing everything over to him in the name of IHT alleviation and for the purpose of keeping the farm intact. He swapped her entire inheritance for a 49% stake in the farm worker's cottage he made her move to.

    Anyway,my wife died in 2010, my former mother in law in 2012, leaving the farm and estate almost entirely to the only son.

    Over the past 6 months or so, I have received repeated requests from the same Cambridge-based solicitors for a copy of my wife's Will. Initially this was apparently required to allow my mother-in-law's affairs to be finalised. Then the story changed and I was told there was a trusts he had set up, and they had to see a copy of the Will to ensure the trust was being administered properly. My requests for copies of documents or names of trustees have all fallen on deaf ears. I have responded that if they (or rather my late wife's brother) feel they have a claim against my wife or her Will, they should state it.

    Am I under any obligation to oblige or correspond with them? And does anyone have any idea of what my former brother-in-law's motives might be?

    Thanks, horleyox
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

    Originally posted by horleyox View Post
    My wife died in 2010. She was a farmer's daughter, estranged from her brother and sister-in-law following their actions relating to the Northamptonshire farm and securing the family inheritance for themselves. Her mother had been left 50% ownership of the farmhouse and 100% of surrounding fields when her husband died in the late 1990s. The rest was bequeathed to her brother, their only son. Soon after he subsequently got married, he moved his mother out of the family home and into a farm worker's cottage. He took her off to an unknown firm of solicitors in Cambridge and got her to re-write her Will, Unknown to my wife or her sister, signing everything over to him in the name of IHT alleviation and for the purpose of keeping the farm intact. He swapped her entire inheritance for a 49% stake in the farm worker's cottage he made her move to.

    Anyway,my wife died in 2010, my former mother in law in 2012, leaving the farm and estate almost entirely to the only son."


    "Over the past 6 months or so, I have received repeated requests from the same Cambridge-based solicitors for a copy of my wife's Will. Initially this was apparently required to allow my mother-in-law's affairs to be finalised. Then the story changed and I was told there was a trusts he had set up, and they had to see a copy of the Will to ensure the trust was being administered properly. My requests for copies of documents or names of trustees have all fallen on deaf ears. I have responded that if they (or rather my late wife's brother) feel they have a claim against my wife or her Will, they should state it.

    Am I under any obligation to oblige or correspond with them? And does anyone have any idea of what my former brother-in-law's motives might be?

    Thanks, horleyox
    Hello Horley

    Sorry to hear of these losses of family members and for the consequent problems. What interests were you yourself left in your wife's Will? You say your wife's brother, but what interests assets did your late wife have either from her father who passed in the 1990s or her own assets. These are the things her brother will try and claim. You have written the facts rather confusingly.

    If the mother's Will changed substantially at Cambridge Solicitors, depending on some factors there may have been an
    undue influence. The solicitors have a duty to make sure this does not happen. When you say 'her brother's Mother Will', do you mean your late wife's mother? Do you have a copy of your wife's Will that you can copy and paste on to here? It would be helpful to know the detail's of your wife's mother (your mother in law?) Will too, ie before it was changed at Cambridge Solicitors.

    Once the Will has gone to probate it is public record I believe so any person with an interest can request access to the Will or its documents, which will include your late wife's brother. Under the law a potential beneficiary can request all such documents from any trustees. It seems to me he thinks either the property is held on trust or something else as a trust under your late wife's Will.
    Last edited by Openlaw15; 30th March 2016, 11:54:AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

      Hello,

      Thanks for your reply. My wife battled cancer for 4 years before she died and was conscious, given her brother's lack of interest in her health and lack of offers of help during this time, that he might be more interested in clawing back whatever he could after she died or keeping whatever he could for himself.

      Her father had bought her a cottage when she was in her 20s, probably using farm money. She sold it when we got married in the 1990s (before her father died) and held on to the cash. She intentionally left no formal Will, but made provision for some assets (e.g. savings and the proceeds of a life assurance policy) to be held in trust for our son. She took her pension as a lump sum (and spent it) six months before her death on the basis of her illness being terminal. All of this, along with any income received and other assets (jewellery and the like) were disclosed by me to HMRC on form R27 after she died. All her other possessions went to the hospice charity where she was cared for during her final weeks. Our home was bought by me and in my sole ownership in terms of title deeds. So sorry, but I have nothing relevant I can post on here.

      Her brother (i.e. the only son) plus a neighbour's son (another farmer and one of is close friends) are the executors of my late mother-in-law's will. I was at first asked for a copy of my wife's will to supposedly allow them to finalise my mother-in-law's estate. They refused to reply to questions of why it was needed or in what respect. I said I would not comply unless they stated their claim or provided me with sufficient information for me to take legal advice. Then a few months later, I received further correspondence from another solicitor at the same Cambridge-based firm chasing for a copy of the will, this time because my late mother-in-law apparently established a trust and "repeat our request that in order to ensure that it is correctly administered, the trustees must see a copy of ...'s Will". I asked close family friends (including my mother-in-law's brother) about the existence of a trust, but she had never discussed it with any of them. I asked for a copy of the trust document or, otherwise, the trustees names. Neither has been forthcoming.

      So, they cannot obtain a copy of my late wife's will as there isn't one; only a note to me of her final wishes, which I have complied with and which does not include any member of her family (other than our son) as a beneficiary. I have already told the solicitor this.

      If you could offer any advice on how I put this matter to rest that would be much appreciated.

      I should probably add that I received notification nearly two years after she died that my son was left the sum of £25,000 in my late mother-in-law's will, but he is not to receive it for a period of 10 years, and only then if sufficient funds remain in her estate, which is to be managed in the meantime by the executors (i.e. the son and his close friend).

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

        Originally posted by horleyox View Post
        Hello,

        Thanks for your reply. My wife battled cancer for 4 years before she died and was conscious, given her brother's lack of interest in her health and lack of offers of help during this time, that he might be more interested in clawing back whatever he could after she died or keeping whatever he could for himself.

        Her father had bought her a cottage when she was in her 20s, probably using farm money. She sold it when we got married in the 1990s (before her father died) and held on to the cash. She intentionally left no formal Will, but made provision for some assets (e.g. savings and the proceeds of a life assurance policy) to be held in trust for our son. She took her pension as a lump sum (and spent it) six months before her death on the basis of her illness being terminal. All of this, along with any income received and other assets (jewellery and the like) were disclosed by me to HMRC on form R27 after she died. All her other possessions went to the hospice charity where she was cared for during her final weeks. Our home was bought by me and in my sole ownership in terms of title deeds. So sorry, but I have nothing relevant I can post on here.

        Her brother (i.e. the only son) plus a neighbour's son (another farmer and one of is close friends) are the executors of my late mother-in-law's will. I was at first asked for a copy of my wife's will to supposedly allow them to finalise my mother-in-law's estate. They refused to reply to questions of why it was needed or in what respect. I said I would not comply unless they stated their claim or provided me with sufficient information for me to take legal advice. Then a few months later, I received further correspondence from another solicitor at the same Cambridge-based firm chasing for a copy of the will, this time because my late mother-in-law apparently established a trust and "repeat our request that in order to ensure that it is correctly administered, the trustees must see a copy of ...'s Will". I asked close family friends (including my mother-in-law's brother) about the existence of a trust, but she had never discussed it with any of them. I asked for a copy of the trust document or, otherwise, the trustees names. Neither has been forthcoming.

        So, they cannot obtain a copy of my late wife's will as there isn't one; only a note to me of her final wishes, which I have complied with and which does not include any member of her family (other than our son) as a beneficiary. I have already told the solicitor this.

        If you could offer any advice on how I put this matter to rest that would be much appreciated.

        I should probably add that I received notification nearly two years after she died that my son was left the sum of £25,000 in my late mother-in-law's will, but he is not to receive it for a period of 10 years, and only then if sufficient funds remain in her estate, which is to be managed in the meantime by the executors (i.e. the son and his close friend).
        Tell the solicitors your wife died intestate, meaning there was no Will and that your late wife's estate has been distributed/ administered. There is therefore no estate interests left to claim. Unless the solicitors have a court order you do not need to provide them with a thing. Tell them you will view any further contact by Cambridge Solicitors as harassment if they keep making unreasonable demands. Under the law, only a trustee has obligations to provide information to beneficiaries. There is likely a trust ie your late wife set up one to hold cash etc on trust for your son/ 'the beneficiary.' On trust means any cash/ assets/ life insurance policies are protected by law. The brother is simply not a beneficiary as there was no Will by your late wife. The solicitors are not going to get a court order anyway unless they actually see that there is a beneficiary. So, they need you to volunteer any information you have. Your son is also a beneficiary to your late mother in law's Will, albeit it's a condition type issue, ie cannot receive the 25k until 10 years lapses. This is also a discretionary trust by the sounds of it. The solicitors want to see these trust documents to see if they have been set up correctly. They will be looking for procedural errors to make claims. However, if they're aware of the trust's content they're more likely to harass the trustee, or you, or take court action, which will be extremely expensive for all involved.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

          Solicitors have taken £30k in fees from a life policy investigating whether or not I was next of kin to my beneficiary late wife to a life policy set up by her mother what should/can I do?

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

            Hi will ask [MENTION=85500]Peridot[/MENTION] if she has any advice

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Being pestered by solicitors for a copy of my late wife's Will

              Hi Horleyox,

              What a difficult situation for you. It sounds very complicated. I'm not sure that I have the facts straight, so please bear with :-
              Prior to your father in law's passing he had purchased a property for your wife. This was before your marriage. I assume this was in her name? Was there any arrangement at that time that her father would keep an interest in the property? Are there any documents relating to this in existence? After your marriage, the property was sold, presumably with your late father in law's knowledge and your wife retained the proceeds.

              If the property was a 'gift' and your father in law passed away within 7 years of the purchase of the property, then it may be that tax would have been due on his estate. If he survived longer than 7 years after the property was purchased then there would be no impact on the tax position for his estate, in respect of this gift.

              Your late wife's family owned a farm. When your wife's father passed away he left 100% of the land and 50% of the farmhouse to her mother, together with his personal possessions and any savings, bank accounts I assume? The other 50% of the farm house was left to your wife's brother.
              During your mother in law's lifetime her share of the farmhouse and the land was transferred to her son, your wife's brother. Her mother retained a 49% share in a farm property.

              For whatever reason, when her mother passed away she left her estate (the 49% share of the farm property and any other savings, bank accounts etc) to her son. resulting in him owning the whole of the farm land and farmhouse. Or was a trust set up at that point? Certain other gifts were made under the Will for instance a gift to your son (see below). If your late wife or your son were potential beneficiaries under the Will, whether under a discretionary trust or other, then you need sight of these documents.

              Your mother in law left a sum to her grandson, your son, that he is only to receive after a period of 10 years, if there were sufficient funds in a trust that was created under her Will? Is this correct? Or is it that your son is to receive the sum when he reaches a certain age? If this is a trust, do you know what else, if anything was put into the trust? Do you know what sort of trust this was? I am assuming discretionary, but without seeing a Will for your mother in law, or any trust creation documents this may not be correct. The trust document or trust created by the Will should indicate who the beneficiaries are and who the back-stop beneficiary is if needed. With a discretionary trust the trustees (if created under the Will these may or may not be the same person/people appointed as executor(s), have discretion on whether to use the trust funds for the benefit of any of the beneficiaries included, or not. They can not be forced to pay anything to anyone but they also have duties to manage the trust correctly.

              Where I am getting more confused is in relation to the assertion by the Cambridge solicitors that the reason they needed sight of your late wife's Will was to see if the trust was being administered correctly. What trust? Was the property that her father purchased meant to be in a trust? Or is there a trust in existence under your late father in law's will of part of his estate that should have been passed down for his grandson? Sorry very confused on this aspect.

              A previous poster has already indicated as your wife had no Will she died intestate so the intestacy rules are followed leading to you and your son receiving her estate. You also mentioned that your son was to be the recipient of your late wife's life insurance policy. Presumably during her life time, she nominated your son to receive the proceeds of the policy. With regard to her savings, you say these were also placed in trust for your son. How has this been achieved? How old is your son? Did she set up a trust for him and who is the trustee? Are the savings the proceeds of the sale of the property that her father had purchased for her or were they ploughed into the purchase of your current home?

              I wonder whether the property purchased for your late wife was the reason her brother received the 50% of his father's estate to balance things out? Maybe this arrangement was to ensure that the farmhouse and land would not be considered in the event your late in-laws needed care fee assessments carrying out? Not what I would personally recommend but this is something that was fashionable for a while to try and protect assets from the Local Authority in assessing any fees due. (The local Authority can look behind such arrangements so not recommended). Was the property that your father in law bought for your wife meant to be held on trust for your son?

              These are of course only speculations on my part, without sight of both your in-law's wills and/or any trust documents to do with the property that your late wife received from her father and subsequent dealing, it is very difficult to see exactly what has happened and why the solicitors dealing with your mother in law's estate need the information they are requesting. I wouldn't necessarily assume that this is all because your brother in law is trying to get hold of everything, it may genuinely be that there was a trust set up maybe by your late father in law that then was not dealt with upon your late wife's death, or even her father’s.

              It would be sensible to obtain copies of both your late in law's wills from the probate registry. Once probate has been granted then the will and grant become public documents so you can obtain copies for a fee of £10 I believe. The Wills which may shed some light on the 'trust' situation. Here is the link to order copies on line :- https://www.gov.uk/search-will-probate

              Also, if you have any documentation relating to the previously owned property, even if it is just a letter from her father? Again, it may shed some light. It is unlikely your brother in law is making a claim against your wife's estate. What would be the reason? He would be unlikely to be successful in any event as she had not supported him. The only reason I can see is that at some point a trust has occurred which may not have been dealt with correctly and which will need to be sorted now going forward, but again speculating on my part.

              More questions that answers I am afraid but hopefully once we have sight of the Wills we may be able to point you in the right direction going forward.
              I am a qualified solicitor employed by the LegalBeagles forum to provide guidance on a wide range of legal queries. I am happy to try and assist informally, where needed.

              Any posts I make on LegalBeagles are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as legal advice. Any practical advice I give is without liability. I do not represent people on the forum.

              If in doubt you should always seek professional face to face legal advice.

              Comment

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