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A Battle of Wills - Loving Husband or Coercive Wife?

on Wednesday, 18 September 2019.

Everyone has the right to leave their estate to whomever they choose in their Will.

But what happens if evidence comes to light after a person's death suggesting that they did not have capacity to make a Will in the first place, or were coerced into making it?

At VWV, we have recently helped a client challenging the validity of her friend and former partner's last Will, on the basis of his lack of capacity.

The Love Story

Mr W was a wealthy businessman with assets in several different countries around the world. He and Ms Y lived together as partners for 16 years, until 1996.

Shortly after their relationship came to an end, Mr W met and fell for a Brazilian lady, 30 years his junior, and they married in January 1997. The marriage did not last and they subsequently separated. Mr W and Ms Y remained close friends.

In December 2006, Mr W and his wife were in the process of negotiating how to divide their substantial assets when Mr W was hospitalised for severe mental health problems. Suddenly, Mr W's wife appeared back on the scene, taking over control of his care and finances, and ensuring that contact with his friends and Ms Y was severed.

The Wills

Mr W died in 2012, leaving behind two Wills:

  • the first was made in October 2006, before his hospitalisation, and left 90% of his residuary estate to Ms Y
  • the second was made 8 months later, following the hospitalisation, and left the entire estate to his wife.

As you can imagine, given Mr W's poor health, his earlier estrangement from his wife and the dramatic change to his Will in a short space of time, Ms Y's suspicions were aroused and she contacted us for legal advice.

How Did VWV Help?

We undertook a full investigation, including obtaining Mr W's medical records and expert medical reports. We then issued court proceedings, challenging the validity of Mr W's last Will, on the basis that he lacked capacity to make it and that he did not know and approve of its contents.

Just weeks before trial, we obtained evidence that Mr W's wife was threatening to abandon him if he did not make a new Will. In light of this, we made an urgent and successful application to the Court to amend our original application to include undue influence. Our application was successful and resulted in the reported judgement Tachi v Woodward [2018] WL 0627 1050 which can be read here.

Armed with this evidence, we entered into negotiations with Mr W's wife and negotiated a multi-million pound settlement on behalf of Ms Y, avoiding the cost of a full trial.

What Should You Do in This Situation?

Challenging a person's Will is not straightforward and speed is often of the essence. You should therefore seek expert advice to ensure your position is protected whilst investigations are carried out.

If you have concerns about the circumstances in which a loved one's Will was made, please contact Michelle Rose for specialist advice on 0117 314 5246, or complete the form below.


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