High Court Decision on Testamentary Capacity – Where the Particular Circumstances can Outweigh the Expert Evidence

Contentious Probate Expert Guy Platon looks at a very interesting recent High Court decision in which a challenge was made to a will on the grounds the will maker (Testator) did not have sufficient testamentary capacity at the time, despite there being both a positive opinion from his GP and a subsequent expert report both stating that he had had.

This particular case followed a ‘hybrid’ trial.  Incidentally these are increasingly becoming the norm for complicated and multi-day hearings: where hearings take place via both video link and in person.

The matter arose from the death of a father who had substantial farming assets and 2 surviving children. The client had made a series of Wills and, in 2014, one of his 3 children tragically committed suicide.  This understandably had a marked effect on the Testator but, despite this, he left his ‘final’ Will In 2016, which made a much reduced provision for the children of his dead son than they otherwise would’ve have received under the previous Will. However, even though the Will writers had ensured that a suitable doctor had assessed the Testator’s mental capacity at the time the Will was signed, the will had been set aside by the courts for the following reasons…

  • Client didn’t have capacity to understand that his dead son had worked the land for free or subsequent promise
  • He lacked capacity to understand the extent of the land
  • He lacked capacity to understand the changes to the wills were more than just minor changes.

This case is a good example of challenge to a Will succeeding even when there is weighty expert evidence to show that the Testator had sufficient capacity to enter into a Will.

It also shows that the effects of bereavement can have a devastating effect on someone’s capacity to make a Will, in this case approximately 2 years later.

If you are in dispute over the validity of a will, we can help. Guy specialises in disputes arising from inheritance and probate, including testamentary capacity and the interpretation of wills.

He can be contacted directly at guy.platon@watsonramsbottom.com, or by telephone at 01254 67 22 22. Alternatively you can talk to us via live chat or complete our online enquiry form and one of our experts will contact you.

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