Raw Deal: Getting affairs in order turns into family drama for Ayrshire couple

David and Agnes Marshall at home in Dalmellington last week (Chris Austin / DC Thomson)

FOR years David and Agnes Marshall had talked about getting a will drawn up but had never got around to it.

The married couple from Dalmellington, Ayrshire, have a complicated family structure – with six adult children between them from previous relationships.

In October last year, David took a cold call from a company based in Glasgow offering to make a will for the couple.

“It seemed very timely so I agreed to it,” said retired joiner David, 68.

A representative from Thomas Bradley & Co – a “later life planning” firm – visited their home and advised the Marshalls to also arrange for two of their eldest offspring to become powers of attorney.

In November, David paid a fee of £399 and was told the process would take between six and eight weeks.

In January, the couple received draft documents and they sent them back with a list of amendments.

However, six months after paying for the new will, the Marshalls had still not received the final papers.

The couple asked for their money back. David also contacted the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission but was told it could not help, as Thomas Bradley & Co could make wills but was not a law firm.

When no refund or finished documents materialised, David wrote to Raw Deal in frustration.

“I was furious that this had taken so long,” said David. “What if something had happened to Agnes or myself during the seven months we were waiting on the will?

“That could have been a potential nightmare.”

The good news is that Thomas Bradley & Co has now refunded the £399 in full. A spokesman for the firm said the matter had been “settled privately” with the Marshalls.

“A big thanks to Raw Deal for getting us a great result,” David added. “We will now get our wills drawn up by a solicitor.”

According to Citizens Advice, it is generally advisable to use a solicitor, or to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up, to make sure it will have the effect you want.

This is because it is easy to make mistakes, and errors in the will can cause complex problems after your death. Sorting out misunderstandings and disputes may result in considerable legal costs which will reduce the amount of money in the estate.

Some common mistakes in making your own will without legal supervision are:

  • Not knowing about the formal requirements needed to make a will legally valid.
  • Failing to take account of all the money and property available.
  • Failing to include directions about what happens if a beneficiary dies either before you or before the estate is settled.
  • Changing the will. If these alterations are not signed and witnessed, they are invalid.
  • Being unaware that marriage or civil partnership does not invalidate a previously made will or that divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership does invalidate most provisions in a will relating to the ex-spouse or ex-civil partner.
  • Being unaware of the rules which exist to enable dependents to claim from the estate if they believe they are not adequately provided for. These are called legal rights. These rules mean that the provisions in the will could be overturned if dependents exert these legal rights.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission has produced a leaflet that explains more about wills and executries. Visit scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk

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