Unusual and unique items left in a will

Annika Bell, Senior associate in the Russell-Cooke, private client team
Annika Bell
3 min Read

Due to the diverse lives of our clients we have come across many unusual and unique situations when dealing with people’s wills and estates. Whilst sometimes it may feel like we have seen it all, there are occasionally instances when we’re faced with something new or unexpected.

On one such occasion, partner Kieran Bowe recalls a trip with a colleague in our trust and estate disputes team, to a pub in the summer of 2020.

“Visiting a pub was novel at that time as hospitality was closed due to Covid restrictions, so we were certainly not expecting a ploughman’s lunch and a pint of IPA. The pub was owned by the deceased individual but the occupier of the pub disputed the terms of distribution of the estate. We were tasked with negotiating the recovery of personal effects belonging to the estate and needed to obtain access to a safe hidden in the pub cellar. On behalf of our clients, we recovered various items of sentimental value, including watches and jewellery, a collection of valuable rare coins, antique items and approximately £75,000 in cash which was returned after being held for safe keeping by a local TV personality. A great result for our clients even if that coveted pint of draught beer eluded us!”

On another occasion, senior associate Carly Argent found herself confronted with a tricky situation involving firearms.

“I recently discovered a substantial collection of WW1 memorabilia belonging to the estate of our property investor client. We needed to establish with the Met Police that this was a legitimate collection of deactivated arms. We quickly located the all-important papers confirming deactivation and called on a war memorabilia expert who, under supervision of the police, started matching deactivation documents to each artefact. The police summoned an urgent response team from SO15 to inspect some larger items for which we could not match papers - including rocket shells and grenades. The attending officers from SO15 removed many of the larger items from the lockup. After a long evening with the Met and SO15, we were all satisfied that the collection was genuine memorabilia and the items did not represent a danger to the public. Some months later the items removed by SO15 were returned, thereby reinstating an important WW1 collection to its former glory.”

From WW1 memorabilia to actual cash in the attic

As for me, I once received a panicked phone call from the executor of an estate who had found a substantial amount of cash when clearing out the deceased individual’s loft. Due to the money laundering and compliance regulations in place we were unable to simply cash in the funds. I therefore recommended the executor speak with their bank to see if they would accept the money. The cash was in a number of currencies (US dollars, British pounds, Hong Kong dollars and Euros, to name a few) and amounted to tens of thousands of pounds. Luckily things made a lot more sense once we found out that the deceased was a retired British Airways employee and, rather than being a criminal mastermind, was actually just quite the traveller!

Whatever the situation we can help

It is the varied nature of our role and our clients which led me to become a private client solicitor and I’m sure many of my colleagues would agree.

When it comes to advising clients on wills and estate planning, and on a host of other related issues, we can help. Each member of the team is used to dealing with a range of situations including different types of assets or family circumstances, and sympathetically advising clients in difficult settings. We are equipped with the experience and contacts to deal with these issues when they arise.

Briefings Individuals & families Private client Unusual and unique items left in a Will Trust and Estate probate and estate administration