It is a sad fact that many people lose their ability to make rational decisions in old age and that is why it is so vital to make a professionally drafted will before time catches up with you. Peter Roberts looks at a recent High Court Ruling in which this point was powerfully made.
About three years prior to his death, aged 97, an unmarried and childless man made a will by which he bequeathed the lion’s share of his estate to two of his sisters. They having predeceased him, his numerous nieces and nephews were the principal beneficiaries of the disputed will.
The will purported to replace an earlier will he had made when he was in his eighties. By that document, he left the entirety of his estate to his grand-nephew, to whom he was at that time very close. The grand-nephew launched proceedings challenging the validity of the later will.
Ruling on the case, the Court noted that, over a year before he made the disputed will, a GP had described him as increasingly confused. He was subsequently seen by a consultant psychiatrist who said that he was calm, pleasant and cooperative. He was, however, prey to various paranoid and persecutory delusions and had expressed odd or eccentric ideas about his own history. He was diagnosed as suffering from dementia complicated by some psychotic thinking.
Upholding his grand-nephew’s claim, the Court found that he lacked the mental capacity required to execute the disputed will. His irrational thought processes were causative of his decision to make it. The Court pronounced in favour of the first will, the provisions of which were rational on their face.
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