Where There’s a Will There Isn’t Always a Way
Tinuola Aregbesola is locked in a legal battle with Barclays Bank over a dispute about her late father’s will in which he left her half of his London home, worth £800,000.
In 2007 Ebenezer Aregbesola used Barclays £90 Will writing service. His will provided that half of his property in London should be given to his daughter Tinuola but because the property was jointly owned by Mr Aregbesola and Tinuola’s stepmother, on his death the property passed automatically (by a mechanism called survivorship) to Mr Aregbesola’s wife – despite the Will.
If Mr Aregbesola has been advised properly Barclays should have severed the joint tenancy when the Will was made. This would have meant that the property would still have been owned jointly, but on the death of either of the parties their interest in the property would pass in accordance with their Will (or under the intestacy rules) and would not pass automatically to the other. This is a very simple and straight forward step that any competent person preparing a will should have picked up on.
What’s interesting about this case is that initially Tinuola made a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) – the bank was found to be at fault and the Ombudsman ordered Barclays to pay a reasonable settlement. However Barclays ignored the recommendation. Barclays position was that because its Will writing division was not regulated, it didn’t have to follow the Ombudsman’s recommendation. Some legal activities are unregulated; many lawyers find it deeply disquieting that the general public are largely unaware that some legal work like preparing Wills can be undertaken by companies or individuals that have no qualifications at all – and often in the case of individual Will writers, no professional indemnity insurance if anything goes wrong.
“Barclays – and other banks – offer cheap will writing services not from the goodness of their heart but because they hope to be appointed as executor of the Will and to make money dealing with the administration of the estate when the person has died. Solicitors often do themselves no favours – we don’t do enough to explain that a cheap and cheerful Will could be very expensive in the long term.
“For Tinuola Aregbesola following Barclays refusal to adhere to the Ombudsman’s finding, she had had no option but to pursue a high court claim against Barclays for negligence. Hopefully she will be successful but litigation is always uncertain and Barclays are behaving appallingly given that her late father’s intentions were completely clear.
“The worry is that this sort of situation is not an unusual one – more and more families no longer conform to the stereotypical husband, wife and 2.4 children. As soon as a family structure becomes any more complicated than this, proper legal advice should be obtained ideally face to face from a qualified and insured solicitor.”
Sarah Young is a Partner with Ridley & Hall solicitors. She specialises in Will disputes and has a record of bringing the most complex cases to a successful conclusion.
For further information please contact Sarah on 01484 538421.
Ridley & Hall have an expert Private Client team who can offer specialist legal advice on all aspects of Wills and estate administration.