Probate specialists have warned of the need to learn lessons from the debacle of a £520,000 bequest to ‘the government of the day’.
The money was originally sent to the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, but following widespread media coverage both parties said yesterday they would pass it to the Treasury.
The will of former nurse Joan Edwards stated that her estate should go to ‘whichever government is in office in their absolute discretion to use as they may think fit’.
Bristol firm Davis Wood was appointed as executors and trustees of the will.
In a statement to the press yesterday the firm said: ‘At the time of the instructions received from the late Miss Edwards, the solicitor specifically checked with Miss Edwards about the unusual nature of her proposed bequest and it was confirmed by Miss Edwards at the time of her instructions that her estate was to be left to whichever political party formed the government at the date of her death.’
However Richard Roberts, chair of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, said: ’It seems to me if she intended [the £520,000] to go to a political party then the will has been badly drafted. All wills need to be very carefully drafted and not subject to any ambiguities.
’Solicitors must check and recheck with their clients. That is why the membership of the new Law Society wills quality scheme will help raise standards.’
Rebecca Forder, a specialist at national firm Irwin Mitchell’s will, trust and estate disputes team, said: ‘We would urge anyone making a will to ensure that they seek professional, expert advice when drafting the document, while we would also recommend that they sit down and discuss the decisions behind their wishes with their friends and family.’