In mid-October, on a Friday afternoon, I answered a telephone call from a distressed lady who was very concerned about documents she had signed at a Cypriot lawyer’s office the previous afternoon and had been advised by a friend and neighbour to consult me.
I suggested that she make herself a cup of tea, try and calm down a little and then come to my office in half an hour to discuss the issue properly.
This she did and 30 minutes later she began to explain in detail what had occurred the previous day. She has authorised me to discuss her case, without mentioning names, in an endeavour to avoid others falling into the same trap.
She said that her partner had passed away leaving his share of their house to her. Title deeds existed so it should have been a straightforward Probate application. 10 years later, having paid many €’000 in fees on account, Probate has still not been granted, the property is still not wholly in her name and she is unable to sell the house.
She visited the lawyer’s office in Paphos in an endeavour to progress the Probate process and to rewrite her will, wishing to leave her entire estate to two local charities here in Cyprus.
A will was drawn up reflecting the above, signed there and then.
Apparently, it was then suggested that she create a second will with flexibility that if she changed her mind as to which charity she wished to leave her estate to, she wouldn’t need to come back to the office, write a new will or have to sign further documentation and the lawyer would then destroy whichever will was inappropriate at the time she passed away. You cannot create two wills and choose at a later date which to use.
After 2 hours in his office she agreed to a second will which was then created leaving her entire estate to the lawyer with the power to distribute the estate “to anybody he thinks fit”, which she also signed that Thursday afternoon.
Reviewing both wills, I pointed out that whilst the first will was signed & dated on the Thursday, the second will was dated on the following day albeit it was actually signed on the Thursday.
I pointed out that anybody reviewing the wills in the future would say that the first will was actually null and void as it had been superceded by a will dated the following day.
Having no children nor close relatives, who would possibly query where her estate would be distributed to after she had passed away.
Surprise, surprise, we quickly drafted a new will for her to sign to truly reflect her wishes and protect those charities to which she wished to leave her estate.
PLEASE, PLEASE, be very careful about any document you are asked to sign and do not be pressured into signing anything.
Wayne Barnett F.C.A.; MIPW; STEP Affiliate – 26600780; email@example.com