John & meg
John and Meg were brother and sister, but didn’t get on at all. Their father had died a number of years ago, leaving their mother, Edith, living in the family home. She was also left with a share portfolio which provided her with enough income to live a comfortable life. Edith was very aware that John and Meg didn’t get on. Part of the problem was John’s wife, Janine, who simply didn’t like Meg and took every opportunity she could to deepen the divide between John and Meg.
When Edith went to see her lawyer she told him about the issues between John and Meg. She felt that her wishes were very simple – she wanted all of her assets sold upon her death and distributed equally between John and Meg. However, she knew that John and Meg would argue between them as to the value at which the house could be sold. Edith made it clear she wanted no conflict between her children and so her lawyer suggested that he be appointed as the executor of her will and he would carry out her wishes.
Edith was a little reluctant to do this as her lawyer was only ten years younger than she was, but he was the expert, so she went ahead.
Five years after making her will, Edith contracted a nasty form of pneumonia and sadly passed away. By this stage John and Meg were barely talking to each other which made arranging Edith’s funeral particularly difficult. Shortly after the funeral, John got in touch with Edith’s lawyer about her will. He was told that the lawyer Edith had always dealt with had recently retired from the practice and had retired to the Bay of Islands. He was renouncing all executorships that he had. What this meant was that he was no longer prepared to act as executor of Edith’s will.
This was incredibly frustrating as John and Meg would now both need to be appointed as executors of their mother’s estate, or just one of them with the consent of the other. Clearly this was not going to work out well, and the arguments began.
This case illustrates the importance of reviewing your will and making sure it is appropriate. Edith had thought she was doing the right thing by having an independent executor, and often that is the best way to go. But make sure that the independent person is someone who will be around for some time. In any event, it is a good idea to review your will at least every five years or sooner if there is a change in circumstances.