A number of national charities are fighting for their share of a £1.6m estate left to them in a will.
Dorothy Whelen died in 2012 and her will, written in 1999, stated that her home near Hampton Court Palace should go to Mrs Hazel Turner. However, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the Royal Institute of Cancer Care and the Royal National Institutes of Blind and Deaf People have claimed Mrs Whelen prepared a will in 1982 leaving her fortune to them.
They are fighting Mrs Turner’s son Alan who is insisting that the 1999 will is legitimate. The charities allege that Mrs Turner fraudulently altered Mrs Whelen’s will by having it witnessed by people who did not know whose will they were signing for.
In a written statement, Mrs Turner says she took Mrs Whelen to the school where she worked to have colleagues attest Mrs Whelen’s signature in 1999. But the two people who are said to have signed the document claim that they have no memory of seeing Mrs Whelen and believed they were actually witnessing Mrs Turner’s will instead.
The fraud allegation against Mrs Turner is focused on the claims that she misled the witnesses into believing they were witnessing her own will, and therefore Mrs Whelen’s will was never valid.
The barrister representing the charities claims that the 1999 will was never validly executed and Mrs Whelen, who was probably infirm at this point, would not have understood or approved of its contents. The will was prepared without professional involvement and the barrister claims that there are grounds for suspicion, especially with the involvement of Mrs Turner.
In Mr Turner’s defence, Simon Myerson QC stated that it was unlikely that Mrs Turner perpetrated fraud against her closest friend and it was actually Mrs Whelen’s late husband who originally wanted the charities to benefit. Myerson went to on say that it was very likely that Mrs Whelen wanted to change her will after her husband’s death and make provision of her own affairs in a different manner.
The case continues but it does highlight the fact that getting a will drawn up professionally is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out after you’re gone. If Mrs Whelen had gone to a lawyer to have a new will written then this case may not have ever come to light.
Whether you are intending to leave your money to charity, or to friends and family, Slater and Gordon are here to ensure your wishes are clearly and legally stated in your will.