Contesting A Will Case Studies27 Oct 2022 | Jan Atkinson
Will dispute on grounds of lack of capacity
Our contesting a will solicitors acted for the claimants, the adult daughters of the deceased who assert his last Will to be invalid on the grounds of lack of capacity and/or lack of want & knowledge and/or undue influence.
The executor of the Will and main beneficiary is the son of the deceased who is the potential defendant. There are other siblings and half-siblings who may have to be added to the claim. Initial investigations are underway and we are awaiting various Larke & Nugus responses as there are multiple Wills that may need overturning. It is possible that the Deceased revoked his last Will but enquiries are being made. To date, the defendant has been uncooperative and we are yet to hear from the solicitors he says he has instructed. A caveat has been placed given there is evidence to suggest that the defendant has been dealing with estate property. Various transfers during the Deceased’s lifetime may also need to be overturned on the same grounds.
Dispute over two £8m estates
We act for the executor of the £8 million estate of his son who was embroiled in acrimonious divorce proceedings at his death. This meant an inappropriate will was in place and the discretionary trust arrangements in that will need to be restructured to minimise IHT whilst reaching an agreement with the deceased’s estranged wife and ensure appropriate provision for the three children. The settlement details will in large part be tax-driven.
In a separate case, Osbornes Law is acting for the unmarried partner of the deceased. Our client’s relationship with the deceased lasted for 7 years up to the date of death and she closed her business to care for him when he became ill. The estate is worth in excess of £8m. The deceased had been married twice and had children from both marriages. His last will provides for our client to receive a legacy of £50k, legacies to both ex-wives and for the residue to be split between his children and grandchildren into unequal shares. One of the deceased’s sons is unhappy with the unequal split and is contesting the will, alleging that the deceased lacked capacity. We are advising our client in relation to the validity of the will and her claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.
Controversy over the validity of the will
Our client is the executor and one of three residuary beneficiaries of the estate of her late uncle. The will is controversial because it contains a provision, typed in the last will which was executed a short time before the deceased’s death, by the beneficiary of that provision. By the provision, the executor is required to offer this beneficiary an option to buy the deceased’s house for a set figure, which is significantly less than the subsequent probate value. This ostensibly leaves the estate in the position of having to pay inheritance tax on an asset for which the amount it will receive is considerably less than the chargeable value.
Controversy has raged over the validity of the will and the option provision itself which is still unresolved. A double grant has now been issued to the beneficiary to whom power was initially reserved. The executor and fellow beneficiaries have pursued ongoing professional misconduct and fraud angles which are still ongoing, and they wish to see determined before agreeing to any settlement.
Dispute over £8m estate administration
Osbornes Law acted for the only surviving adult child of the deceased, who died in her nineties having made several wills in the preceding 10 years. Her capacity was wavering when the last will was made. It had been instigated by one of her sons, who died shortly after his mother. That will introduce a complex hotchpot provision that adversely affected our client as she has received significant lifetime gifts more recently than had her two brothers. The last will was made with minimal direct contact with our client; her son and the trustees of various family trustees acted as intermediaries between our clients and the lawyers who drafted the will. On behalf of our client, the will is being contested for want of knowledge and approval. There are related trusts in Switzerland that are integral to the £8 million estate administration as the deceased’s property in London was charged to one of the family trusts, of which our client and her family are discretionary beneficiaries.
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Jan Atkinson Partner
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