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Why your Will should be clear & unambiguous


When Joan Edwards bequeathed £520,000 to “whichever government is in office at the date of my death” she would never have anticipated the column inches that this would generate.

But this story actually raises some important points, not only about choosing your executors carefully but also for ensuring that your wishes are clearly defined and unambiguous. It also highlights the importance of taking legal advice when writing your Will.

The media has reported that Joan Edwards’ Will was drawn up in September 2001. The executors were named as the partners in her local law firm.

In her Will, Ms Edwards left instructions for her funeral and to pay any debts. It also stated that anything else was to go to “whichever government is in office at the date of my death for the government in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit”.

Clearly, there is some ambiguity in this statement with questions now being raised about the intentions of Ms Edwards.

The Coalition parties split the sum between them according to their size in parliament, with the Conservatives receiving approximately £420,000 and the Liberal Democrats about £100,000. Both parties claim that this decision was made on the direction of Ms Edwards’ executors.

However, friends of the deceased have told national press that as a former school nurse and midwife, Ms Edwards would have wanted her money to be used for something she considered worthwhile.

This raises two important questions. Firstly, if Ms Edwards wanted her money to go to a specific cause – for example, buying new equipment for the hospital in which she worked – why wasn’t this explicit in her Will?

Also, by ‘government’ did Ms Edwards really mean the political party/parties that form the government? Or did the deceased actually mean for it to be a gift to the nation, rather than a party donation?

Instead the clauses which were inserted into her Will simply leave her true intentions wide open to interpretation.

So what does this tell us? Quite simply, it demonstrates how clearly defining your wishes in your Will is of upmost importance if you want your estate to be distributed as you would have intended. It also highlights the need to ensure that your executors fully understand your final wishes and how they’re to be carried out.

Your Will is one of the most important financial documents you’ll ever write. Given this, it’s equally important that you take legal advice to ensure that your Will is clear, concise and legal enforceable.

For a quote for our Will writing services, click here.

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Further information

Our experienced team has a wealth of knowledge in preparing a range of Wills, from the most straightforward to those involving complex trusts.

As well as drafting new Wills, we can also review your existing Will to make sure it reflects your wishes, complies with legal requirements and minimises potential tax liabilities.

In reality, making or updating your Will is more straightforward than you think. To discuss any aspect of your Will with our team, call us on 0117 325 2929 or complete our online enquiry form.

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