Want to Keep Your Will a Secret? High Court Ruling Underlines the Pitfalls

15th May 2023 By

Tensions simmer within many families and, when making your will, you may wish to keep its contents secret from your loved ones so as to avoid feeding the fire. As a High Court case showed, however, that makes it all the more vital to engage a solicitor to assist you in expressing your wishes.

By his will, a moderately prosperous businessman bequeathed all that he owned to his wife. The document was dated just over a month before he died in hospital. One of his daughters, who would have inherited part of his estate had he died without making a valid will, challenged its authenticity.

Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the case was unusual in that there was no evidence as to how the will was created. There was no record of instructions having been given to a solicitor and it was unclear whether the document was home-made or expertly drafted. In the absence of professional involvement, the identity of the will’s author itself remained uncertain.

There were certain suspicious circumstances surrounding the making of the will, not all of which could be explained. However, in upholding the document’s validity, the Court rejected arguments that it was the product of a large-scale conspiracy, perpetrated by several people and persisted in for a long period.

The wording of the will was, at least in part, apparently based on a foreign precedent and the Court was satisfied that it was not the work of a professional well versed in English law. The document was capable of being a valid will, however, and its contents made complete rational sense in that there was no evidence that the man had any financial dependants other than his wife.

The decisive evidence, however, came from two witnesses to the will who testified that they had seen him sign it at his home. Given the rows and distrust that had riven his family, they complied with his request not to mention the will to anyone else. In the event, the document did not come to light until after his death.

In ruling that the will had been rightly admitted to probate, the Court was satisfied that, as required by law, the man had signed the document in the presence of two witnesses who had themselves subsequently appended their signatures to the document’s attestation clause.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Relationship Status Put Under Spotlight in Divorce Case

26th February, 2024 By

Divorce proceedings are rarely cut and dry, especially where the passage of time adds complexity to matters. This was certainly so in a recent case that required a Family Court judge to rule on the validity of a decree nisi. The case centred on the divorce proceedings of a couple in their fifties and focused on a decree nisi that had been pronounced in 2012, following an application by the husband. Now seeking to finalise the divorce with a decree absolute, the husband asserted that the decree nisi had been properly...

Will Execution – Remote Witnessing Legislation Expires

22nd February, 2024 By

A legal amendment that was made during the COVID-19 pandemic allowing the witnessing of wills to take place via videoconferencing has officially expired. As of 31 January 2024, the Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 is no longer active. It was introduced in response to the pandemic, as a means of facilitating the valid execution of wills via remote witnessing. The Order applied to wills made between 31 January 2020 and 31 January 2022, but was later extended to 31 January 2024. Section 9 of the Wills Act...

Psychotherapy Condition Leads to Contact Order Appeal

20th February, 2024 By

Wherever possible, the courts will do what they can to support contact between parents and children but, in some instances, that contact comes with conditions attached. The nature of such conditions was the cause of contention in recent appeal proceedings brought by the father of two young boys. The man appealed against a High Court order that allowed for contact periods with his children, which would progress from supervised to unsupervised and increase in length but were dependent upon him engaging in psychotherapy. This condition had been imposed following a...

Beware of Builders Offering Cut-Price Work – Court of Appeal Cautionary Tale

16th February, 2024 By

Every householder should understand the dire risks involved in opening their doors to those promising to carry out cut-price building work. A Court of Appeal decision provided distressing examples of almost the worst that can happen. A householder approaching retirement age was taken in by a workman who knocked on his door, offering to paint the front of his home for £1,000. He was introduced to another man – the offender – whom the workman described as his business partner. The pair proceeded, over a period of months, to carry...