You and the Law – 28th July 2009

Cut-off point

I understand that a judge has the power to change the contents of a Will where a son or daughter has been left out owing to a family feud.

Under what circumstances is this possible, when a Will is supposed to be legally binding, and what steps can the maker of a Will take to ensure that their wishes are carried out? BN

It’s possible for children to go to court under the family provision legislation to claim a share of a parent’s estate.  However, they are unlikely to be successful unless they were either partly or wholly maintained by the deceased at the time of his or her death.

If you were to write a note and keep it with your Will explaining why a child was excluded it would assist in defending such a claim.

The only other way excluded children could get their hands on your money is where all the adult beneficiaries agree.  They can rewrite the terms of your Will by drawing up a Deed of Family Arrangement. It’s no different really to a beneficiary giving away their money once they’ve received it, but it’s usually done for tax reasons.

Awaiting the bill

Is there a time limit within which solicitors must present their bills to clients? RP

Normally solicitors are quite keen to get their bills out as quickly as possible!  If there’s been a delay in your case it suggests that there are matters still to be resolved.

Perhaps you applied for public funding (legal aid), in which case your solicitors will have to send off their costs for approval.  Or, if you were involved in litigation, it’s possible the costs will have to be agreed with the other side. 

There are any number of reasons why there might be a delay, and it may well be out of your solicitor’s hands.  But they should keep you informed about what’s going on, and I suggest you write to them for an explanation.

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