Family feud pensioner had capacity to make a valid will

Posted: 12th July 2013

RCJIn a decision which vividly reveals that not every frailty or mental infirmity will inhibit the making of a valid will, the High Court has rejected arguments that a pensioner’s health problems and long-standing addiction to prescription drugs meant that she did not have testamentary capacity.

The woman’s death at the age of 77 sparked a feud between her sons, one of whom received the lion’s share of her £450,000 estate whilst the other was cut out of her will altogether. The latter submitted that, quite apart from serious physical and mental health problems, the deceased had been addicted to benzodiazepine drugs for 25 years and was very unwell on the day that she signed the will which deleted him as a beneficiary.

Dismissing those arguments, the Court noted evidence of the woman’s continued mental alertness towards the end of her life, including a trip that she had made to watch the tennis at Wimbledon shortly before she signed the will. Witnesses had described her as ‘a delightful old lady’ and ‘a shrewd businesswoman’ right up until the time of her death.

The Court was entirely satisfied that the deceased was in a fit mental state to make a valid will and that she knew and approved of the document’s contents. Although she had experienced occasional anxiety and mild depression, the Court noted: "If people suffering from such complaints were unable to make a will, a large percentage of the population would be so inhibited."

Upholding the validity of the will and directing its admission to probate, the Court also ruled that there was ‘not one shred of evidence’ to support the disinherited son’s plea that his brother had brought ‘undue influence’ to bear upon their mother before she signed the document.