Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Moral of story: Tell family where your will is

  • Print

Henry Thomas Coghlan died in London, England, on Nov. 24, 1892. No will was found.

When a person dies without a will to give away the estate, it is called an "intestacy." There is legislation that operates to give the wealth to the deceased person's nearest kin when there is no will. That is what happened to the Coghlan fortune. The fortune was huge -- he enjoyed immense wealth. The fortune was passed to his nearest kin, who decided to put it into a trust where it percolated along for a generation of wealthy Coghlan descendants. Among them was Lady Broughton, the matriarch of the family during the 1940s.

'Here is the problem -- memories are short. You can tell people where to find the will, but they will forget'

An impudent whelp named Briscoe from the poor side of the family came forward in 1948 with a will in his hand. It was allegedly signed by the deceased Mr. Coghlan shortly before his death. It left everything to his brother, where it would devolve down a completely different line of the family. Briscoe served Lady Broughton with court papers, asking the will be put to probate, even though two world wars had intervened. Lady Broughton objected. The lawyers fought it out, and the first skirmish went to Briscoe. He was allowed to put the will to probate.

Briscoe still had to prove the will was valid. It was reminiscent of period television series Downton Abbey. The downstairs folk were fighting the upstairs folk for a massive family fortune. The court case suddenly dropped from sight. There was no published record of the final outcome. What happened to the money?

A potential clue was to be found at Highgate Cemetery in London. The deceased had been the owner of an ornate and very valuable family tomb. The winner of the court case would inherit the tomb. It is still there. Daily tours walk past it. You can go to London and look at the inscription beside the door. The tomb, it turns out, is still sitting un-administered in the estate. It has room for six more caskets but, since Coghlan, no one else has been interred there. He left a testamentary mess that was never fully cleaned up.

Coghlan could have avoided this unfortunate tale for all concerned if he had taken steps to ensure his will would be found.

Where are you storing your will? It might be in your safety deposit box. It might be in a fireproof safe at home. It might be in a drawer. It might be at your lawyer's office. It might be at a family member's house. Some people store their will in their freezer (with the understanding the freezer offers some protection in a house fire). Wherever it is, you want to be absolutely sure your family will find it. No one wants their family to go through the same difficulties as the Broughtons and the Briscoes.

You should tell your executor where you are storing your will. You should then tell your family the same thing. Here is the problem -- memories are short. You can tell people where to find the will, but they will forget. Here is a simple suggestion to make things easier.

You can draft and sign a notice that tells everyone, in writing, where your will is to be found, date it, then make five copies. You can send a copy to everyone who needs to know and keep a copy at home where it will easily be found.

 

John E. S. Poyser is a lawyer with Tradition Law LLP. Contact him at 204-947-6802 or jpoyser@traditionlaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2014 B4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Soca and Reggae Festival and Weekend Weather

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google