Last week’s news reminds us that sometimes a written Will can be overturned by a disappointed beneficiary.
When Julie Spalding died aged 98 she had been looked after for several years by her nephew, Cecil Bray, who is now in his 80s. He was at his ‘curmudgeonly’ aunt’s ‘beck and call’ after giving up work to care for her, on the understanding that he would inherit her bungalow by way of compensation: a Will executed in 2003 indeed left her home and the bulk of her cash to her nephew.
But in the last three years of her life Mrs Spalding suffered a personality change and ordered Mr Bray out of the house. It was then that her window cleaner, Albert Pearce, became an important figure in her life. In the next few years she asked her solicitors to draw up no fewer than three wills, the most recent naming the window cleaner as sole beneficiary of an estate worth some £300,000.
Last week Judge Murray Rosen QC was asked by Mr. Bray to consider whether Mr Pearce had exerted undue influence upon Mrs Spalding. He found no evidence of coercion by the window cleaner, but decided that all three of the most recent wills signed by Mrs Spalding were drawn up at a time when she lacked the mental capacity to execute a proper Will.
The Judge accordingly held that the 2003 Will was effective and the estate should therefore have gone to Mrs Spalding’s nephew, who had attended court from hospital where he is being treated. Mr Pearce was asked to repay all monies received from the estate.
To ensure your Will is effective, you must be mentally alert when you execute it. If necessary, ask a doctor to confirm your mental capacity before you sign, especially where the Will differs significantly from earlier versions.
The Telegraph report