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What does it take to invalidate a Will? More than Saddam Hussein and space invaders…

on Thursday, 16 February 2017.

There have been some surprising results in a number of recent cases examined by the courts regarding Wills made by people whose mental capacity is diminishing due to dementia or otherwise.

Doris' Story

The most recent case (Lloyd v Jones) involved Doris Harris who made her last Will in February 2005 with the help of her niece, Hedydd Parry Jones, who was also her GP.

Doris did not see a solicitor before she decided to gift £10,000 to her only daughter, Sian Lloyd, leaving the rest of her substantial estate, in the region of £600,000, to her only son John and his wife Kathy.

There had been some unrest in the family ranks when daughter Sian had previously left the family home in Wales to marry an Englishman. Doris did not approve.

John, by contrast, had stayed close to home and following the death of his father had helped his mother run the family farming business, with his wife's help.

Delusions and Dementia

Unsurprisingly, Sian challenged the validity of Doris's last Will and felt confident in her success given that Doris had been suffering from confusion, forgetfulness, acts of aggression and strange delusions for a long time before she made her last Will. A notable incident for Sian was when Doris informed her in December 2003 that aliens had invaded the farm and that Saddam Hussein had broken in to her home. According to Sian, Doris's delusions were well known to the family members and were openly discussed.

At court, the Judge recognised that there was doubt over Doris' mental capacity and concluded, based upon the medical opinion evidence obtained for the trial, that Doris had indeed been suffering from dementia and delusions on-and-off from a time well before she had made her last Will.

However, the Judge was still able to find on the evidence that that this did not necessarily mean that Doris had suffered a complete loss of understanding regarding her last Will.

Peculiar as this may sound, the Judge placed great importance on the fact that Doris had told a number of witnesses that she wanted to leave the farm to her son John. Accordingly, when weighing all the legal arguments in the balance, the Judge ruled that Sian's claim should be dismissed and the Will was declared valid.

The Lessons to Be Learnt

This decision and other recent decisions like it have all held that a loss of some degree of mental capacity is not necessarily sufficient to invalidate a Will. These cases all point to the courts taking a more robust approach towards challenges founded upon a person's loss of mental function when preparing their last Will. Clearly, the evidence and facts will be different in each case and a very important factor in this case was the independent witness evidence stating that Doris had often said that she wanted John to benefit from the farm.

Expert advice on this complex subject is very important. If you think that a Will should be challenged or is subject to challenge, speak to Michelle Rose on 0117 314 5246.

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