A firm of genealogists was “wholly cavalier” and “reckless” when it ignored the will of a deceased pensioner, a judge has ruled.
There are a number of lessons to learn from this case but there are two very practical points that should be raised:
First and very simply, when your client executes their Will, they must be encouraged to store this in a safe place and to make someone aware of its location. They should also appoint suitable executors.
Secondly, when instigating probate proceedings, all parties must be aware of the value of the estate versus the costs of the litigation. In this case the legal costs are stated as being around £130,000 for an estate valued at c £600,000. If these costs had ended up being paid from the estate, that would have had a significant impact on the beneficiaries' entitlement.
When looking at the facts of this case, it is a stark warning that genealogists must not be focused solely on their own financial gain and, as stated by the Judge, 'it has to be appreciated that all applications have got to be dealt with with the utmost probity and care'.
the court found that Fraser & Fraser tried to have Ms Amstell declared as having died intestate despite being aware that a homemade will had been drafted by Ms Amstell’s great nephew two years before her death