Downton Abbey fans have, in Episode 1 of Season 4 of this TV blockbuster, seen the anguish created when a young husband and father is taken from his family without leaving a will.  Northlaw would like fans to take heed of the message in the drama about the importance of making a will.

The first episode of Season 4 talked about the rules on intestacy (where there is no Will) – giving the infant child a greater share in the estate than his mother.  Adding to the widow’s anguish was talk of a life or widowhood interest.

The programme features the sudden death in a car accident of Matthew Crawley, who had been the joint owner of Downton Abbey.  It appeared that Matthew had not left a will.  The predicament facing Matthew’s family illustrated how important it is for even young couples to seek the expert advice of a lawyer about their wills.  Making a will ensures that treasured belongings and particularly a home will pass to those we choose to benefit in the way we think they should benefit.

A talk to a lawyer means that your personal wishes can be expressed in a way which will minimise problems for family and friends left behind grieving at the death of their loved one.  Northlaw has never seen a situation where the arbitrary rules of an intestacy benefit the deceased’s family appropriately.

In the TV drama, it was subsequently revealed that, before his death, Matthew had written a letter expressing his intention that his widow (Lady Mary) should inherit his share of the Abbey.  The Earl’s lawyer has advised the family that Matthew’s letter is as good as a will.

In New Zealand the scenario that played out may not have had the same results or even if it had, there is likely to have been a very drawn out and expensive process involving an application to the High Court. New Zealand has seen a recent change (2007) to the old Wills legislation which provides some latitude around the strict requirements for the signing and witnessing of a Will. However Northlaw strongly recommends to all clients, and anyone reading this article, that a lot of cost, upset and surprise can be avoided if people make sure their Wills are current and properly signed and witnessed.

So don’t put it off and if you haven’t reviewed your Will recently then get hold of your lawyer. David Roughan is one of the most experienced lawyers in New Zealand when it comes to Wills and is only too happy to talk with you about what’s involved and the costs. So call David now.