The daughter of a deceased man is seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation from the unregulated will-writing branch of a well known high street bank, claiming that the poorly drafted will has cost her a valuable stake in her father’s London home.
The deceased used the bank’s low costing, unregulated will-writing service to dispose of the various assets held within his estate. The deceased had instructed that, upon his death, his daughter (the Claimant) would receive half of his London home.
The property was owned as joint tenants, by the deceased and his wife, who was not the mother of the Claimant. In essence, what this means is that upon the death of one joint owner, the ownership of the property automatically passes wholly to the surviving joint owner (very common amongst couples). This is known as the rule of survivorship and it takes precedence over any terms made in a will.
In order for the deceased’s wishes to be carried out the joint tenancy should have been severed so that the couple would have owned the property jointly as tenants in common which effectively splits ownership of the property into shares, which can then be passed on through a will.
The severance could have been done at the same time as creating the will for the deceased and as described by the Financial Ombudsman in this case; severing a joint tenancy is “a simple formality”.
The bank were ordered by the Financial Ombudsman Service to pay a ‘fair and reasonable settlement’. However, the bank have decided to ignore the recommendation, stating that technically their will-writing division is not regulated and therefore it does not have to comply with the Ombudsman’s findings. The Ombudsman accepted that this is technically correct.
A will is one of the most important documents an individual can have and it is worrying that so many unregulated will writers are offering cheap and discounted services that offer no protection for their clients. It is so important to seek specialist advice when making a will, especially with the increasing complexity of ones family structure and assets.
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This story was originally reported on in the finance section of The Telegraph.