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Forged Will Case Highlights Importance of Professional Help

Forged Will Case Highlights Importance of Professional Help

In a recent case, a Devonshire business woman was found guilty of forging her partner’s will after he took his own life – in order to prevent his entire £180,000 estate going to his estranged wife. Peter Farquharson hanged himself in March 2008, at the home of Victoria Kendrew. Jayne Humphries, his former wife, was due to gain probate in June 2009; however, Ms Kendrew’s solicitors announced in May that a new will had been found in an old jacket; it had been witnessed by two of Mr Farquharson’s friends, Kevin Dodd and Carl Jensen, who signed legally-binding documents as to its authenticity.

Ms Humphries, a serving police officer, had an inquiry opened which ultimately proved that the signature had been forged. The plot further fell apart when bank records showed that Mr Dodd and Mr Jensen had been in Surrey on the day they had claimed to be in Teignmouth with Mr Farquharson. Ms Kendrew and her co-conspirators, also found guilty, will be sentenced following the completion of their probation reports, with custodial sentences extremely likely.

Lord Chancellor elects not to regulate sector

Having an up-to-date and properly-planned will is, then, of the utmost importance – as is having it drawn up by a fully-qualified legal professional is also paramount. Around 180,000 wills are written by non-lawyers every year – and the Legal Ombudsman has called on the government to make them subject to the same regulations as solicitors. Last year, the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling elected not to regulate will-writing.

The Legal Ombudsman resolved 1,013 wills and probate complaints in the financial year 2013-2014, with 18% of these related to costs, and 12% each due to delays, failure to follow instructions, and failure to advise.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said that more regulation was not necessarily the best way forward, commenting that although it agrees with the Legal Services Board that “there is room for improvement in this area”, “we believe other options should be explored first, including better guidance for professionals and making better use of existing consumer information and protection".

Calls for voluntary ombudsman

Chief Legal Ombudsman Adam Sampson said "Failing a move to regulate all will writers, we want the government to at least consider a voluntary ombudsman scheme into which service providers can opt themselves. Provision already exists for the Lord Chancellor to make this happen".

Jacqueline Almond, partner and solicitor in the wills, trusts and probate team, commented: "It is my view that all consumers of will writing, trusts and estate administration services should be afforded the same safeguards. Such protection already exists for clients using a solicitor, in the form of the Legal Ombudsman, and this could be extended to will writers. Clients should be aware of the additional protection that they have it they instruct a solicitor to draft their will."

Planning ahead during your lifetime means that you can ensure that your estate is distributed properly. Our trust solicitors can also advise you on the best way to preserve your family’s wealth by making cash gifts during your lifetime, for example, or protecting assets in trusts. We can also help with advice to ensure that your partner receives your legacy and is not subject to challenges to probate after you’ve gone.

Two of our solicitors are members of the Court of Protection's panel of professional deputies, giving us specialist expertise where clients are unable to make decisions for themselves.

If you still haven’t finalised your last wishes or would like to write a new will, want to leave money in trust for a young relative, or are struggling with probate issues, call us on 01494 790002. Alternatively, email us at estatemanagement@ibblaw.co.uk.