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Will that excluded elderly woman’s family declared invalid

A will which excluded an elderly woman’s family and left all her estate to her carer’s son - who she hardly knew - has been declared invalid by the High Court.

The court heard that the woman had made several wills over the years with the guidance of her solicitor and always left most of her substantial estate to members of her family. Her health then deteriorated and she began to suffer from vascular dementia.

She later suffered a stroke and decided that she needed to employ a new carer. Shortly afterwards, substantial cheques were drawn on the woman’s account in favour of the carer. A new will was drawn up without the guidance of a solicitor which left all the estate to the carer’s son.

When the woman died the family challenged this final will saying that at the time she made it, she lacked testamentary capacity - that is, she lacked the mental awareness to know what she was doing and to ensure that the will represented her true wishes.

In cases like this, the person making the challenge has to be able to raise real doubts about the validity of the will. The family were able to do this because two medical experts gave evidence that the woman had lacked testamentary capacity.

The burden then fell on the carer’s son to show that the woman did have testamentary capacity. The judge held that he had not provided any such proof and the disputed will should be declared invalid. The woman’s previous will, drafted by a solicitor leaving the estate to the family, was therefore reinstated.

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