Why a scribbled note shouldn’t be the default position when making a Will

Since the death of Aretha Franklin in 2018 there has been an ensuing battle between the children of the superstar regarding who should inherit the singer’s fortune.

This week the press is awash with the outcome of a lengthy court battle where the Judge has ruled that a hand-written note that was discovered at the singer’s home does indeed qualify as a valid will and therefore the contents of which should be acted upon.

   – The Guardian

“Handwritten document found in Aretha Franklin’s couch is valid will, jury rules.”

   – New York Times

   – BBC News

“Jury rules document found in Aretha Franklin’s couch is valid will”

The detail of the matter is adequately covered in the press; however, the circumstance raises questions as to whether a will, hand written, ill prepared, illegible in many regards, and poorly executed (and arguably non-compliant with the Wills Act) should be deemed valid.

We encourage people to make a Will so that their wishes can be executed upon their passing, and we encourage people to seek proper legal advice when doing so to ensure that there is no ambiguity regarding their wishes and that any Will made is fully compliant and executable.

Why Should I Make A Will with a Solicitor?

Many people choose to make a Will because they want their assets to be distributed in a specific manner; assets that often carry monetary value. The upfront cost of a Will may seem expensive, particularly when you consider that Aretha’s Will was free-of-charge since she hand-wrote it seemingly with no legal advice or representation. Sadly however, it’s not uncommon for a poorly drafted Will to come under scrutiny after death as beneficiaries (and those who believe they should be a beneficiary) argue the matter through the legal system, often costing the estate far more than what it would have cost if a Will had been properly made in the first instance.

With millions of dollars worth of assets to distribute, it’s likely that the legal costs incurred by Aretha Franklin’s estate, although significant, will still have left a hefty sum to be distributed. A hefty estate isn’t always the case however and sometimes the legal fees incurred when challenging a Will can result in very little being left once all is settled.

Although a hand-written Will is potentially better than having no Will at all, it goes without saying that a properly drafted Will would minimise and likely eliminate any challenge (and therefore costs) after death.

You can read more about Aretha’s Will debacle here, and of you are interested in making a Will, or indeed you feel that you have been wrongly excluded from a Will, then our Probate or Contentious Probate department could assist you. Call us for advice at any of our Yorkshire baed offices and we will be more than happy to assist.

☎️ Call our Wakefield office on 01924 290 029
☎️ Call our Garforth office on 0113 246 4423
☎️ Call our Sherburn in Elmet office on 01977 350 500
☎️ Call our Mapplewell office on 01226 339 009
☎️ Call our Ossett office on 01924 586 466

About Stacie Hurt

Stacie is now nearly 8 years PQE (post qualification experience) and has over 14 years of litigation experience under her belt. Although initially Stacie worked in general commercial litigation Stacie has specialised in Contentious Probate since 2015.

Having trained at Irwin Mitchell in Sheffield and honed her skills at various law firms in and around Sheffield, Stacie joined Thornton Jones Solicitors early 2021 to help strengthen our Private Client team by bringing her wealth of Contentious Probate experience to the team.

Stacie says “I got into law to help people. I act for clients who wish to challenge the validity of wills, wish to bring Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, or who were promised something by a deceased person but were left out of their written Will. Sometimes I will act for people who are involved in a dispute with other executors and/or beneficiaries of an estate, or for someone who simply wishes to receive their beneficial entitlement out of an estate.”

When not helping clients receive what they are owed, Stacie enjoys keeping fit and listening to music. Stacie enjoys HIIT classes, playing netball, and running, and has completed the Sheffield Half Marathon raising funds for charity.

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The content of this blog post is for information only and does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no liability for any such reliance upon this content. Where the post includes links to external websites, Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no responsibility for the content of such sites. Any link to a third party website should not be construed as endorsement by Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited of any content, products or services which are outside our direct control.

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