You are never too old to make a will, but failing to consult a solicitor before you reach advanced old age can be a positive invitation to dispute amongst your loved ones after you are gone. That was certainly so in a recent case reviewed by Peter Roberts where a woman was 94 when she signed her last will in a shaky hand.
The wealthy woman’s niece considered that their relationship was a close one. After receiving a legacy of £100 in her aunt’s will, she challenged the document’s validity. She argued that her aunt lacked the mental capacity required to make a valid will, that her cousin had brought undue influence to bear upon her and that her signature on the will was in any event a forgery.
Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that, although old age is often associated with dementia, the woman’s advanced years alone did not prove that she was unable to make a valid will. Although she was diagnosed with dementia nine months after making the will, the medical evidence indicated that she was capable of rational decision-making when she signed it.
The cousin provided support to the woman in her final years, visiting her frequently, and there was no scintilla of evidence that he had neglected her or subjected her to undue influence. The Court was satisfied that the will was the product of the woman’s own free will and accurately reflected her wishes.
Expert evidence had revealed a number of features of the woman’s signature on the will which indicated that it might be a forgery. However, the Court noted that many elderly people have shaky signatures and old age was the likely explanation for the woman’s declining fluency with a pen. The niece had failed to show that the signature was probably a forgery. The validity of the will was upheld.
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