Will was valid despite being translated from Gujarati by a family friend
A woman has failed in her attempt to overturn her deceased mother’s valid will in English on the grounds that she did not speak English.
Kunvarben Patel’s £200,000 estate, which included properties in England and India, was left to her three sons, yet “excluded” her four daughters. Prabha Patel, the deceased woman’s 41 year-old daughter, contested the will claiming that, although Kunvarben could not speak fluent English, the will was prepared by a will writer who could not speak her native Gujarati tongue.
The High Court heard that the meeting between Mrs Patel senior and the will writer was arranged at her request by Mrs Patel’s son, Ramesh, but the interview was made difficult by her inability to speak fluent English.
Mrs Patel conveyed her instructions to the will writer via a “family friend” fluent in both English and Gujarati, but Prabha Patel’s’ barrister claimed this was irregular and that a qualified interpreter ought to have been present. Allied to that, the daughter claimed, the will writer lacked the appropriate legal qualifications.
Judge David Hodge, however, did not accept the argument that she did not understand the full implications of her will and intended to leave her estate to all seven children, saying he was: “satisfied on the evidence that she did know and approve of the contents of her will”.
Had the judge accepted the argument that the will be set aside, Mrs Patel senior would have died ‘intestate’ and all seven of her children would have benefitted from her estate. However, the judge ruled that under English law the will was valid, even though the person making it spoke no English, because she understood and approved of its provisions.
The facts of this case of contentious probate highlight the benefit of using a trained solicitor when making a will in order to ensure it is made in a valid way and avoid creating suspicion and future family acrimony.
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