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Independent Legal Advice proves invaluable in Inheritance Dispute
There is no replacement for professional advice when it comes to drafting a Will. However, in the context of a bitter inheritance dispute, a High Court ruling demonstrated that getting the right advice can prove itself to be more valuable than ever, especially when age is used as a weapon to bring a challenge.
A mother in her 80s made a new Will leaving her estate of £325,000 to just one of her two daughters, omitting her other daughter from whom she was estranged.
The affected daughter challenged the validity of the Will, stating that her mother was put under undue influence when updating her Will. She also claimed that, due to her mother’s age and vulnerability, she hadn’t understood enough to approve the contents of the Will.
A Solicitor drafted and advised the mother on her Will in the absence of the beneficiary and, on the advice of another Solicitor from the same firm, contacted her GP who was able to confirm that the mother did have requisite mental capacity to make a valid Will.
Claims that the mother was frightened of her benefitting daughter were overruled. Although her previous Will had left her estate equally between her two children, the reasoning for making the new Will was swiftly justified due to the breakdown in the relationship with the estranged daughter. Evidently, the daughter did not like being disinherited but this didn’t mean that undue influence had taken place.
Commenting on this case, Head of Wills, Trusts, Tax and Probate department said, “Wills are important, irrespective of a person’s age, and the earlier we get our affairs in order the better. But when people become older and potentially vulnerable it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of understanding the contents of their Will. The lawyers who had advised the mother proved to be decisive. The Solicitor had interviewed the mother on her own and was satisfied that her wish was for only one of her daughters to benefit from her estate.”
She adds, “If you find yourself in similar circumstances we cannot stress enough the importance of seeking professional advice when writing or amending a Will, no matter how old you are.”