Beware Challenging a Will

by Cyrus Medora on July 15, 2014

Cyrus Medora

The England & Wales High Court has upheld a will executed on his deathbed by a man who left everything to his long-term partner. Cyrus Medora, a solicitor dealing with contested wills and probate claims at Kidd Rapinet’s Slough office said, “The law provides individuals with wide discretion on how their estate should be distributed on their death; although there are specific circumstances under which this discretion can be challenged”.

The challenge in this case was brought by the man’s daughters, who alleged that the will was written under the undue influence of the man’s partner.  The sequence of events leading up to the new will was unusual and, as the judge accurately noted “may be expected to heighten family tension”.  The man had been suffering from terminal cancer and, when told he had only days to live, he returned home from hospital to settle his affairs. He immediately married his partner of 32 years and, just before the ceremony, he executed the contentious will making his partner his sole beneficiary. The will was made ‘in contemplation of the marriage’.  He died three days later.

The testator’s three daughters challenged the deathbed will, claiming that undue influence had been used to make their father execute a document that was contrary to his wishes. However, the judge disagreed, finding that: “He quite plainly understood marriage as a solution to the inheritance tax problem which overhung the business that he and his partner had created and for which he had made no provision”.

Cyrus Medora comments “Whilst there are circumstances when a will can be challenged by a person’s dependents, this does not mean that close relatives have an automatic right to receive money from a will”.

If you would like assistance in writing or reviewing your will, call the contact for your local office for further information:

  • Aylesbury: John O’Shea (01296 432541)
  • Farnham: Rebecca Panton (01252 713242)
  • High Wycombe: Gurvinder Sehra (01494 535321)
  • London: Rosalind Hallifax (020 7024 8030)
  • Maidenhead: Alex Norris (01628 621301)
  • Slough: Rukshana Hussain (01753 532541)