The validity of wills can come under challenge and, if you want peace to reign in your family after you are gone, professional drafting and advice make a real difference. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court ruled that a musician knew his own mind when he cut his son out of his £1.3 million estate.
By the will he signed five months before his death from cancer, aged 81, the man left half his estate to his daughter and the other half to his five grandchildren. There was no bequest to his son, although a non-binding letter of wishes that was attached to the document urged that he be given certain chattels.
In dismissing the son’s challenge to the will, the High Court rejected arguments that the man did not have the legal capacity to execute it. He had known and understood its contents and claims that his daughter had fraudulently poisoned his mind against his son also fell on fallow ground. A critical factor in the Court’s ruling was that the will was rational on its face, properly executed and drafted by a lawyer.
Will disputes are a family tragedy – don’t let it happen to you!
Family inheritance disputes can be witheringly sad and it is absolutely essential to seek independent legal advice to ensure that peace prevails after you are gone. In one case, a man’s death, leaving a £16 million fortune, raised the curtain on years of venomous dispute between his two children.
The man’s will was as simple as could be, in that it left his estate equally between his son and daughter. However, by a previous will, the daughter had been left her share only for her lifetime. That would have meant that, on her death, her inheritance would have passed to her brother or, if he did not survive her, his children.
Following the man’s death, aged 92, his son launched proceedings, claiming that he lacked knowledge and approval of the contents of the later will at the time of its execution. He argued that the earlier document was his last true will.
In rejecting those arguments, however, the High Court found that the son had lost all sense of perspective about the case, to which he had devoted himself full time for three years. He had persuaded himself, contrary to the evidence, that his sister and his mother had engaged in a conspiracy to overcome his father’s free will.
There was nothing remarkable or suspicious about the man’s decision to make an equal and outright division of his estate between his children, and the Court had no hesitation in concluding that he was fully aware of the nature and effect of the document he was signing.
Inheritance Disputes – A Good Lawyer can help to defuse emotions
Inheritance disputes are often about more than money and can sadly be intractable due to the heightened emotions involved and more often than not, professional legal advice can defuse feelings and provide clarity. Legal advice on the creation of a will, which will give effect to your wishes and resist a challenge by disgruntled potential beneficiary, is invaluable.
Solicitor at Sydney Mitchell LLP
Ravinder Sandhu qualified as a Solicitor in 2002 and has over fourteen years of experience in her chosen fields, the last few years being at Sydney Mitchell LLP. Ravinder deals with Wills and Inheritance Tax planning, Probate and Administration of Estates, Trusts creation and administration, creation, registration and use of Lasting Powers of Attorney, registration and use of Enduring Powers of Attorney, Court of Protection Applications.
She is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) and is a fully accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly.