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piles of money to illustrate what is reasonable financial provision after teh case of Wooldridge v Wooldridge

HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – DOES A RICH BROTHER DESERVE A SHARE OF WILL?

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HOW TO CONTEST A WILL – DOES A RICH BROTHER DESERVE A SHARE OF WILL?

As reported in The Times (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/our-rich-brother-doesnt-deserve-equal-share-of-will-say-sisters-dlrhwl9vf) two sisters considered their rich brother didn’t deserve a share of their late mother’s estate which was worth 1.5m. Their mother had split the estate equally but according to The Times article he should have been entitled to less than the third he had been left as “he is richer than they are”.

The Will in question was made in 2013. However their mother then went on to live another three years, dying in 2016 aged 90. It had been drawn up within months of the death of her husband and nine days after a fall which had left her “vulnerable”.

The challenge appears to have been two-fold (although the article may not have reported on the case in its entirety – so a “health warning” is applied to this particular will contest claim). Firstly a lack of knowledge and approval was alleged (akin to claiming a lack of mental capacity). It was also claimed the Will wasn’t properly witnessed in accordance with section 9 of the Wills Act 1837 (whereby the person making the Will must have her signature witnessed by two witnesses who also sign it – see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Will4and1Vict/7/26/section/9).

There had been a previous Will made in 2012 whereby the brother had been left 20% of his mother’s estate and the sisters, 40% each. So far as the brother was concerned then, this was an argument over approximately £200,000. Whilst a significant sum to most ordinary people, it is not inconceivable that the costs (to both sides) of running such a defence to the will contest/will dispute claim will exceed £200,000 and by a considerable amount. The first question mark then in my mind is that when considering risk v award, the trial was justified. I would say not. However, what we don’t know is what has gone on in the background – whether, for instance, ADR (“alternative dispute resolution”) was attempted but failed or was even refused. The problem here is that there was really not very much difference between the parties positions so bizarrely that in itself might have worked against sensible settlement discussions.

The impression from the article is a claim was being made that the deceased, “weakened” by the death of her husband and perhaps her declining health was taken advantage of by the brother. Again, though this is an impression only – we don’t know the full facts. However, the Barrister representing the sisters is said to have alleged that the brother “took control” of their mother’s finances and claimed (to the brother and presumably during cross-examination or summing up) that “You wanted your sisters out of it”. The obvious weakness in that position is firstly, if such control was in fact correct, why weren’t the sisters disinherited entirely rather than their share diminished to provide for each of the children equally (an equitable position on its facts anyway since of course no one can account for the future and financial falls can occur to anyone). Secondly, if as it appears, capacity for the most part was retained by the deceased in relation to her Will, then how, if the Will change

was due to pressure only, was it possible for the brother to maintain this for three years until her death. In other words she had plenty of time to realise her mistake and rectify this.
It will be interesting to find out the result of this will dispute and will contest claim and whether the Will is revoked.

As a final point, which we have mentioned before in the context of Will dispute and Will contest claims, there is no legal basis for a claim that a Will is unfair as a factor against its legal validity. In any event, what is and what is not unfair in Will dispute claims, is a matter of perspective and subjectivity. This is not something a Judge could be expected to rule upon in a Will contest and will dispute claim.

If you consider that any of these facts and matters are likely to apply to you, or you would like to ask us for more information about our no win no fee arrangement, or you simply want us to assess your claim, then please do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential no strings chat.

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