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We recently helped our client, Mrs R, to contest her mother’s will.
Mrs R’s mother made a will shortly before she died appointing her brother, T, and his wife, S, as executors. Mrs R was left just £100. The residue went to T and another brother.
Our client contested the validity of her mother’s will on two grounds. She also made an Inheritance Act claim.
Mrs R’s said that the will was not valid due to T and S exercising undue influence over her mother. She said that T and S had motive and opportunity to influence the deceased to execute a will in T’s favour when they discovered a number of lifetime gifts had been made to Mrs R by her parents. T and S believed that Mrs R had already had received her inheritance.
Lack of mental capacity
Mrs R also believed that her mother lacked the testamentary capacity to execute the will due to deterioration in her mental capacity as a result of Alzheimer’s. She relied upon her mother’s MMSE (mini mental state examination) score that was 21/30 at the last test before the will was signed and had shown a pattern of decline. She also relied upon the fact that a court of protection form had been completed by her mother’s doctor stating that her capacity had been worsening.
Inheritance Act claim
Mrs R proceeded with a secondary claim under the Inheritance Act on the basis that she had need for financial provision from her mother’s estate.
Out of court settlement
It was not necessary to commence court proceedings. We served a formal letter of claim on behalf of Mrs R with some settlement proposals. This resulted in the parties quickly achieving an out of court settlement.
The parties agreed to payment of all legal costs out of the estate and then to split the remaining net estate three equal ways between Mrs R and her two brothers.
This is an example of a situation we often see, where a surviving parent is “encouraged” to change their will by children who are unhappy with financial support provided to a sibling.
To the extent that this “encouragement” becomes pressure to do so, and particularly when coupled with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, there is a good chance that a court will find such a will ‘suspicious’ and liable to be declared invalid.
This case also serves as an example of how costly court proceedings can be avoided with an early out of court settlement; something that becomes increasingly difficult once the legal costs mount up and the court gets involved.
If you would like guidance on contesting your mother’s will on the basis of undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity, or if you think you may have a valid Inheritance Act claim then contact us now for a free, no obligation assessment of your case. Call 0808 139 1596 or send us an email.