Documents should be professionally drafted!
Posted: 18th February 2019
The huge disadvantage of self-drafting legal documents without professional advice is that their validity, effect, and even their genuineness, can subsequently be very difficult to prove.
A widow who contributed £150,000 to the purchase of her stepson’s home on the basis of a home-made agreement faced exactly that difficulty.
The widow claimed a 37.5 per cent stake in the property in reliance on what was described as a house purchase agreement.
The document was drawn up without assistance from a solicitor.
Her stepson, however, alleged that it was a forgery. He claimed that the widow’s contribution to the purchase of his home was a non-repayable gift which represented his inheritance from his deceased father.
In ruling on the matter, a judge found that expert handwriting evidence clearly established that signatures on the agreement were those of her stepson and his partner. There was no evidence that the document had been altered or manipulated after it was executed and, in those circumstances, the widow had succeeded in proving that it was genuine.
The judge noted that the widow had not come to court with clean hands, in that she had, during the hearing of the case, confessed to having forged her husband’s will, appointing herself as his sole beneficiary.
In those circumstances, the judge directed that papers in the case be referred to the Attorney General for a decision to be made as to whether criminal or contempt proceedings should be brought against her.
However, the judge ruled that her admitted dishonesty should not disqualify her from enforcing her beneficial interest in the property in accordance with the agreement. The issue of whether her stepson’s home should be sold so she could be paid her share was left over for further argument.