When making a Will, the law does not require you to act fairly and the general rule is that everyone is permitted to leave their worldly assets to whoever they wish. In a case on point, the High Court honoured a pensioner’s bequest of by far her largest asset – her £350,000 home – to only one of her three children.
The woman had made a previous will, by which she divided the home in which all her children had been brought up equally between them. After she died, aged 88, however, her youngest child produced a later will, by which he alone inherited the property. His mother had handed him the will in a sealed envelope and instructed him not to open it before her death.
The older siblings launched proceedings, claiming, amongst other things, that their brother had brought undue influence to bear on their mother. They could not believe that she would have wished to deprive them of their share in the house and, in a case that engendered much bad feeling, mounted a comprehensive attack on their younger brother’s character.
In ruling on the dispute, the Court acknowledged that all three children had given much support to their frail mother during her final years and that she had spoken well of all of them. In upholding the final will, however, the Court noted that the older siblings were significantly better off than their brother and, unlike him, had homes of their own. The younger child had also lived the closest to his mother and, when she needed help, he had been her first port of call.
Far from being aggressive or dominating, the evidence indicated that the younger child had been affectionate and attentive towards his mother. Noting that it was no part of its role to decide whether the disputed will was justified, or fair, the Court found that the fiercely independent woman’s bequest was rationally explicable. Arguments that the document had not been properly executed, and that the woman lacked the capacity to make a valid will, were also rejected.
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