Making a Valid Will Requires Freedom of Choice and Understanding

To make a Will, a person has to consider the implications of the disposal of their assets and how it will impact on those left behind. The decision on who should receive bequests must be made with the freedom of choice and the following case highlighted this when a judge found that a woman’s wishes had been oppressed which led to her leaving her daughters out of her Will.

The family consisted of five daughters and one son and the woman’s husband held a traditional belief that the daughters would be the responsibility of his and therefore their accumulated wealth should pass to the son only as he would continue the family name. Their money had been obtained by a successful family restaurant and some shrewd property investments.

Most of the couple’s wealth had been given to the son before the woman died to ensure the husband’s wishes had been satisfied. In the woman’s last Will she bequeathed her remaining asset, which was her financial interest in the restaurant, to her son and effectively cutting the daughters out of her Will. She later gifted the restaurant to her grandson, the son of her son, to make certain that it stayed in the male line.

One of the daughters challenged the Will and the judge agreed that the woman had been under pressure from both her husband and son when making her final Will and in the transfer of the restaurant to her grandson. On that basis, the judge reverted to the previous Will which all assets were to be shared by her six children.

The judge discovered that the woman had been unable to exercise her own freedom of choice because the husband was adamant that the son should inherit everything and they had argued about it constantly as she wanted to provide for her daughters. The judge acknowledged that the woman had capitulated to her husband’s wishes in order to stop the arguments and restore peace.

Taking into account that the woman had suffered a stroke and that English was her second language, the court believed she was vulnerable and was satisfied she probably did not understand the terms of her final Will when she signed it.

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