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‘DIY Will’ warning

New figures from the High Court show that claims for mishandling a deceased’s estate increased from 107 in 2012 to 368 in 2013. Such claims include theft of assets and favouring certain beneficiaries over others.

Now Stephanie Kerr, solicitor in the Litigation team at Napthens, has warned that it is very common for friends and family members to be appointed as ‘lay executors’ but most people fail to appreciate the complexity of the task.

She said: “Many estates are highly technical affairs. There could be overseas property, pensions and investments to take into account. It may be that they are expected to organise the sale of a property, but fail to take into account inheritance tax.

“It’s not just the practical duties that should be taken into account. It is possible for an executor to face allegations of misconduct – it doesn’t matter if they are not professionals and didn’t know any better.

“In serious cases people have faced criminal proceedings. They may have acted to give one party – or even themselves – an unfair advantage, not appreciating that this could be against the law.

“At Napthens we have acted for both executors who have turned to us to help unravel an estate, and for beneficiaries who feel they have been unfairly treated. In some cases the police have become involved.

“Handling an estate is not a simple task at the best of times, and it is certainly the best idea to get professional support at what can be a difficult time.”