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Can Your Smartphone Resolve a Will Dispute?

on Tuesday, 28 January 2020.

We recently acted for clients who were successful in defending a Will challenge against a relative's estate using video evidence captured on a smartphone.

N's Story

N died leaving three sons. Her eldest son M had three daughters, who began a legal battle with their two uncles over N's last Will and main asset - her flat.

Two years before N died, she decided to exercise her right to buy her council flat in Chiswick. She didn't have enough money, so she borrowed around £140,000 from her three granddaughters.

At that time, N made her last Will, leaving all her other assets of about £10,000 equally between her three sons.

Deed of Trust

N also executed a deed of trust, just for her flat. The deed of trust was to ensure that, whilst N was alive, she and her youngest granddaughter owned half the flat each, and that after N's death, the whole flat would pass to her granddaughter.

Sadly, in August 2015, N had a fall, which resulted in her losing the ability to make decisions for herself. Following the advice of medical staff she was admitted to a nursing home where she remained until she died.

The Legal Battle

After N's death, two of her sons challenged the deed of trust on the grounds that N did not have capacity to execute the trust or that if she did, she was unduly influenced to do so. They also challenged the validity of the Will on similar grounds.

The sons argued that N had suffered from dementia and was delusional at the time she made the deed of trust and the Will (before her fall). If they could prove this through evidence, the flat would not pass to N's youngest granddaughter, as the deed of trust would not be valid. Instead, the flat would be divided between N's three sons if the Will were to be upheld.

However, if the Will was not upheld, the flat and N's remaining assets would pass under her 1993 Will, giving a £10,000 legacy to M and dividing the rest between the other two sons.

The two sons' arguments were not accepted by M or his three daughters and the case came to court for trial.

How Did We Help?

We uncovered a lot of N's conversations held with various family members, which were captured on video. These demonstrated that N was determined to buy her flat and that she was equally determined in wanting to leave it to her youngest granddaughter.

Most importantly, there was a video of N signing her last Will and the deed of trust. This, together with the spoken evidence of witnesses, was crucial.

Viewing this, the judge was able to form a clear impression that N was stubborn and determined, and he could see that she had not been influenced by anybody. The two sons were unsuccessful in their Will challenge claim because the judge was not satisfied by their evidence which he found was "illogical, irrational and incoherent".

If you are concerned about a Will, it is vital to access advice from a specialist at the earliest opportunity. For advice, contact Marianne Nankervis in our Contentious Probate team on 0117 314 5494, or complete the form below.


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