Family Dispute Underlines Wisdom of Making a Professionally Drafted Will

14th September 2020 By

Family disputes frequently focus on inheritance and can inflict immense anxiety and pain on all concerned. A case concerning a young man who died tragically when he stepped in front of a train, however, showed that the best way to avoid such conflict is to make a professionally drafted will.

The deceased, who had learning disabilities and mental health issues, was aged just 35 when he died but was a wealthy man due to an inheritance from his grandfather. An inquest resulted in a verdict of accidental death. Following his death, his mother was granted letters of administration on the basis that he had died intestate – without making a valid will.

However, his uncle by marriage, with whom he had had a close relationship while he was growing up, subsequently launched a probate claim on the basis that he had in fact made two duplicate wills prior to his death. The wills, under which the uncle stood to inherit cash and property, were in identical terms and were apparently executed on the same day.

The deceased’s mother claimed that the wills were forgeries which had been created several years after his death. She pointed to the fact that they had been signed on his behalf by a man who was later convicted of an unrelated fraud and jailed. The man, who signed the wills in exercise of an enduring power of attorney granted to him by the deceased, was not a solicitor but was on occasions willing to let others think he was. He had since died.

In ruling on the matter, the High Court acknowledged that the involvement of a fraudster in the wills’ execution created a potential for forgery. However, in finding that they were genuine, the Court could detect nothing in their contents to arouse suspicion. The fraudster gained nothing from the wills and, under their terms, the deceased’s mother and brother remained his principal beneficiaries.

After hearing evidence from handwriting experts, the two witnesses to the wills and others, the Court found that they were duly executed. They had been signed in the presence of the witnesses and the deceased, at the latter’s direction. The Court was also satisfied that the deceased understood and approved their contents.

The grant of letters of administration to the deceased’s mother was revoked and the Court pronounced in favour of the duplicate wills. Given the long history of dispute between members of the family, the Court also ruled it appropriate and necessary to appoint, in the mother’s place, an independent professional as executor of the estate.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Award That Requires Borrowing Made Into Court Order

17th May, 2024 By

Disagreements between separating couples all too often result in litigation that substantially reduces the assets available to them, as was illustrated by a case that recently reached the High Court. At issue was whether awards made by arbitrators in financial remedy proceedings can be made into court orders even if that would require one of the parties to borrow money. The couple had previously had a relationship lasting a few years before resuming their relationship in 2015. They had two children before separating again in 2019. Following their separation, the...

Inheritance Disputes – Costs Risks Can Be Reduced

15th May, 2024 By

Arguments about what someone promised before their death can lead to significant legal costs. However, if faced with a claim against the estate, there may be steps the beneficiaries or executors can take to reduce the risks, as a recent High Court case illustrated. A man had left a farmhouse and agricultural land in Cornwall to his wife, with whom he had also jointly owned a neighbouring area of land. After his death, one of the couple's daughters and her husband claimed that he had told them he wanted them...

Share Rounding Error Does Not Prevent CGT Relief

13th May, 2024 By

There are often very specific rules that must be complied with in order to claim tax reliefs, but if a small mistake arises, the courts may be able to provide assistance. In a recent case, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) found that an investor was entitled to Entrepreneurs' Relief on the disposal of his shares in a company, despite owning one share fewer than he needed to qualify for it. The investor had agreed to purchase 5 per cent of the shares in the company for £500,000. He wished to own...

Wife Entitled to Maintenance Until Sale of Family Home

10th May, 2024 By

When divorcing couples disagree on how assets should be divided, the courts will seek to arrive at a fair outcome for both parties. In deciding how the proceeds of sale of a former couple's home should be apportioned, the Family Court agreed with the wife that she should receive maintenance payments until the sale took place. The couple had married in 2006. Following a brief separation, they had reconciled for two years before finally separating in 2022. The husband and wife both contended that they should be entitled to about...