An elderly woman’s will which left half her estate to her neighbour to the detriment of her family has been rejected by the High Court.
The judge held that it was unlikely that the woman fully understood what she was doing at the time when she made such an important decision.
She had first made a will in 1969 after her husband died. She left half of her estate to her brother and his wife, and half to her husband’s daughter and granddaughter.
In 2007, the woman spent time in hospital. When she returned home she became close with her neighbours who helped to look after her. She wrote a new will leaving them 50% of her property. The remaining 50% was left to her brother.
The new will wasn’t drawn up by a qualified solicitor. It was drafted by a will writer who asked her questions and was satisfied that she understood what she was doing.
When the woman died shortly afterwards, the neighbours claimed the new will favouring them should stand instead of the original will.
The court rejected their application. The judge held that when the woman drew up the will, she may not have had testamentary capacity – that is, she may not have been fully aware of what she was doing.
For example, she had left just £10 to her step-daughter, which suggested she was no longer aware of the value of money. The hospital notes also stated that the woman’s neighbour had mentioned her dementia and cognitive difficulties to the staff.
The court ruled that there wasn’t sufficient proof that she had the testamentary capacity to fully understand the contents of the new will. The original will should therefore stand.
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