my mother's will we had to go to the Probate Court and get the photocopies he had made recognised instead.
We knew exactly what had happened. My father had gone to the library, done the copies and then left the original on the screen. He blamed himself of course but he was in a highly emotional state. My mother's death was expected but there were other issues which made it highly traumatic.
At least we had the photocopies.
It should have been a relatively simple process to get the copies recognised. There was no argument about the contents and nobody wished to contest them.
I did all the necessary paperwork and took it in to lodge it. They refused to accept it.
What, I asked, was wrong with it? Nothing but they were not going to accept it. Why? Because it had not come through a legal practitioner the court recognised.
There was absolutely nothing we could do about this. It was a petty little rule the administrator had made rather than the law but fighting it would have had serious consequences. I spoke to someone I knew in the Law Society. She was sympathetic, agreed that it was ridiculous and put me in touch with the person who was then in charge of the Probate Division within the society. He lodged the papers for a minimal fee.
In the end we were lucky. I knew what to do and where to go. We were able to afford an upfront fee and the matter was delayed by several months rather than several years.
My father still feels badly about this almost twelve years on but it was not entirely his fault. I know that I would have looked at anything left in the photocopying machine and handed it to the library staff. Someone must just have dumped it in the wastepaper box.
I was reminded of all this yet again because there is piece in today's paper about the rising costs of going to court. It explains how, unless you are very rich or very poor, the fees are likely to bankrupt you.
I think I also know one reason why the problem exists. I often need things to be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. I use the JP in a local MPs office. Most of the time it is just a quick stamp and a signature. I am grateful for the service and the staff there know that they are helping me do a job that is important to yet other people. On Saturday however I had to help someone else and they needed documents to be witnessed by a JP too. We went to someone they know. Suddenly there was a pile of paperwork. Two forms of ID had to be produced as well. All this was seemingly required for the witnessing of a copies of several documents.
I said nothing but I came away wondering whether there were new regulations. If there are new regulations are they there to cover the individual, the JP or for some other purpose.
It seems the more laws we make the more laws we need.