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Grounds for contesting a Will: Understanding the terms of the Will

View profile for Laura Pracy
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For a Will to be valid, the person making the will (the Testator) must have ‘knowledge and approval’ of the contents of the Will.

This requires that the Testator has understood what was in the Will when it was signed and also understood what the effects of the Will would be.

Often a Will is contested where there is a claim that the Testator lacked knowledge and approval of the contents. Such challenges most commonly occur to the Wills of elderly testators, even more so where a more recent Will has significantly departed from a previous will. 

Knowledge and Approval of Will

Where a Will has been signed, there is a presumption that the testator has satisfied the requirements of knowledge and approval, this presumption is strengthened when it is prepared by a solicitor, and even more so when it is accompanied by a medical opinion. This presumption can be called into question and warrant further investigation in a number of circumstances:

  • If the testator had difficulty understanding the terms of the Will;
  • Where the beneficiary of the Will was closely involved with its preparation;
  • Witnesses are unable to confirm the testator knew they were signing a Will;
  • The Will was not prepared by a solicitor; and

The case of Gupta v Gupta [2018] is one in which the Deceased’s will was challenged on the basis that she had lacked knowledge and approval of its contents.

In this case Mrs Gupta (the Deceased) died in 2014, her husband having died previously in 2009. She had three children. It was claimed by one of the children, that the Will dated 20 November 1998, was invalid on the grounds that the Deceased had lacked knowledge and approval of her Will on the basis that it was written in English and the Deceased had limited understanding and was unable to comprehend written / spoken English. The Will provided that the Deceased’s property would pass entirely to one of the children and then for the residue of the estate to be divided between the three children equally.

The Courts approach to knowledge and approval is to consider whether the Testator understood what was in their Will when it was signed and did the Testator understand its effect. In reaching a decision the Court will take into account all relevant evidence and whether there was any suspicious circumstances. The Judge concluded that the Deceased would not have executed a Will if she did not understand and approve its terms.

This case highlights that the courts are reluctant to interfere with the presumption of knowledge and approval, as doing so would greatly encourage more challenges to Wills in the absence of clear evidence.

Inheritance and Will Disputes - Contact Us

For advice on challenging a Will or to chat to a solicitor about a disputed Will please call Laura Pracy on 0161 785 3500 or email laura.pracy@pearsonlegal.co.uk

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.