24th Aug 2016

Are you a disappointed beneficiary because somebody has changed their Will?

As another case over a disputed Will has reached a final hearing in Court this week, the result has emerged that the deceased’s disappointed brothers finding their justice. A judge decided to overturn a Will on the ground that the deceased did not know and approve the contents when he signed it.

 Challenging a Will

David was impaired both physically and mentally due to an accident in the 1980s which led him to receive a significant sum of money which was managed for him by a solicitor appointed by the court.  David died aged just 46 leaving a Will prepared by his carer, Mark, leaving 95% of his estate to him.  After David’s death his two brothers challenged that the Will was not valid because David lacked mental capacity, he didn’t know and approve the contents, that is was not signed correctly and he was unduly influenced by his carer to make the Will.

It is not generally advisable to throw every challenge possible at a Will and seeking expert advice on the facts surrounding the preparation and signing of the Will can help in identifying which grounds to challenge on. For example, it is unlikely you would succeed in challenging the validity of a Will because that person was elderly and nor would showing that a person was easily led by another prove undue influence.

Taking a challenge to court

The consequences of losing in court on a claim made (even if you win on another point, as in the David and Mark case) could result in you having to contribute towards your opponent’s legal costs for defending the point you lost on. It is important to identify at an early stage what grounds the evidence available supports.  

David’s brothers were able to prove to the court in this case that David had not known and approved the contents of the Will. This was by providing evidence that David had become isolated from other people and it was found that he did not know when signing the new Will that gifts to his family and chosen charities as set out in the previous Will wouldn’t take effect.  It was important to the Court in this case that the Will had not been read over to him and David had been left to read the Will himself before he signed it (keeping in mind the fact he suffered from a mental impairment).

If you were expecting to receive an inheritance and found that you have not because that person changed their Will you may be able to claim the Will was not valid or even claim you should have some inheritance anyway.  Usually in these circumstances time is of the essence and generally the facts and law surrounding the matter will be complex so you should look to speak with an expert as soon as possible.

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