We have to wake up to wills before it's too late

I feel a lot of sympathy for Christine Gill in her courtroom battle for the estate of her deceased parents, which began last week. After caring for her mother and father for many years, she could reasonably have expected better than to find they had left their estimated £2.3m estate to the RSPCA, which incidentally is just about the UK's wealthiest charity. Understandably Christine feels aggrieved and is trying to get the will overturned. But as with any challenge to a legal will, she faces a huge battle, not least because the RSPCA will be lawyered up to the eyeballs.

Christine's case is an extreme one but there are probably thousands of will-related heartaches that go unreported each year. Some are by design, others by cock-up.

Problems can arise in all sorts of ways such as having an old will where the legacies are out of date, or a badly written will where it's not clear who gets what. One of the worst situations I've heard of was when someone bought one of those DIY will kits and filled it out. Sadly, they didn't understand the law and got the chief beneficiary to act as a witness. Automatically, that person was barred from the inheritance.

Nearly as bad as a poorly drawn-up will is no will at all. Die without one and the intestacy law kicks in – and the rules governing that date from some bygone era that only ever existed in Enid Blyton books. Spouses get the bulk of the estate (although when there are kids and the estate is large, far from all of it) but unmarried partners are entitled to zilch. Intestacy laws are a crude and unreliable backstop to making a will.

Despite all this, some two-thirds of us don't have a will. So why's that? Of course a good many people are simply too busy or lazy, while others can't bear to think about the grim reaper. And a fair proportion, I guess, are put off by the horrendous legal jargon that wills are couched in.

No justice at the Rock

Northern Rock's deal with Lloyds TSB to, in effect, transfer a large amount of its better-quality mortgage business should come into force any day now. Those borrowers escaping the Rock in the next few weeks can breathe a sigh of relief, particularly as the nationalised bank is basically persuading customers to leave it with a crude imposition of higher-than-normal interest rates. Perhaps Lloyds should bundle an "I survived Northern Rock" T-shirt into its welcome pack.

However, as I've written before in this column, many of those borrowers who remain are probably ruing the day they ever took on a Rock mortgage. Take the reader who wrote to me when the Lloyds tie-up was first announced. He bought one of the Rock's infamous "Together" mortgages, borrowing more than 100 per cent of the value of the property in the process, and is now facing the twin misery of paying an interest rate that's over the odds and being stuck in negative equity. Crucially, the reader can't move mortgage provider because no other company wants to risk such an enormous loan-to-value.

Again I ask: aren't the actions of the Rock – expressly the higher-than-normal rates they are levying on customers – in direct contravention of the much-vaunted instruction from the Financial Services Authority that all banks and insurers should treat their customers fairly?

Plainly this bank's borrowers aren't being treated fairly – and all so that Rock chief Ron Sandler can pull off the financial Red Adair act he was appointed by the Government to perform.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

    £45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us