A recent case brings to mind the importance of good legal drafting and clear client advice, which are both essential in Will drafting.
This is true in Will preparation possibly more than in any other area of law given that our documents are not tested for efficacy until after the testator has died (at which point it is too late to correct misunderstandings and errors).
There should be no room for interpretation in a Will. The content should be clear and unambiguous.
In Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind v PR of the Estate of Audrey Arkell deceased  EWHC 2315, there was disagreement over the interpretation of the gifts in a Will.
In Audrey Arkell’s Will, the nil rate band amount was left to John Beasant. Audrey Arkell died on 17 August 2017 leaving an estate valued for probate purposes at £3,127,174.
The problems arose because there were other specific legacies to John, of a residence and some shares (which, together exceeded the nil rate band of £325,000). The residue passed to various charities.
The following question arose: would John Beasant be entitled to the legacies and the nil rate sum (as he argued)? Or was his maximum entitlement the legacies alone (as argued by the charities)?
A small difference in the interpretation but a significant difference in the outcome.
The High Court stated that the wording in the Will demonstrated that the testator had a clear understanding of how inheritance tax worked.
The High Court agreed with the charities that John Beasant was entitled to his legacies only, and nothing under the nil rate sum clause because the value of his legacies already exceeded the nil rate sum. This meant the charities received the residue in full.
Albert Einstein said, “True knowledge comes with deep understanding of a topic and its inner workings”. The Arkell case demonstrates the value of the testator having a thorough understanding of their Will in practice. Too many clients only have a superficial understanding of their Wills, and it is all too common for there to be a significant lack of understanding of the content.
At Legacy Law, we believe in making the complex easy to understand, and our focus is on making sure that you gain a thorough understanding of the legal decisions you make throughout your time with us. We create documents which are bespoke for your circumstances, and flexible enough to last whatever unexpected events occur.
If you have an existing Will which you do not understand or would like to make a Will with professionals, please contact us. We are driven to ensure that you understand all aspects of the documentation – you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0118 40 50 131.