A woman is suing Barclays for hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation after claiming that their will-writing service lost her a 50% stake in a house worth around £800,000.
Tinuola Aregbesola alleges that the bank's service, which normally costs around £90 for a will, failed to notify her father that he must serve a notice of severance if she was to received her share of his property, as intended.
A complaint was initially filed with the Financial Ombudsman Service who, at first, found that the bank was at fault. They ordered Barclays to pay "a fair and reasonable settlement" as a result of their negligence, but Barclays fought back. They argued that since their will-writing division is not regulated, there was no obligation for them to recognise the Ombudsman's findings. This was accepted as being technically correct.
The case has now been filed within the High Court, where it will be decided whether Ms Aregbesola is legally entitled to a significant payout or whether she will be left with nothing.
The property was jointly owned by her father and his wife - she was not Tinuola's mother. Because of the joint ownership, along with the lack of a severance process, the property will now go solely into his wife's name. The Ombudsman have referred to this severance process as a "simply formality" when estate planning.
This case has highlighted the wider issue of a growing number of people opting for cheap 'DIY' wills as opposed to consulting specialists who can construct them properly. Such wills are often too simplistic to accurately reflect their owner's wishes, with the terminology used often said to be too vague to apply appropriately.
There are growing concerns that as more people turn towards 'DIY' wills, the courts will begin to struggle under the weight of the larger portion of their time that is being taken up in handling such issues.
The validity of probate of an estate can potentially be questioned as a direct result of a badly constructed will. Getting a will drafted properly can save a lot of hassle in the long run and is always suggested ahead of doing it yourself and inadvertedly making a mistake!
The case highlights the danger of popular, cheap "DIY" wills which are often too simplistic to reflect accurately their owner's wishes.