Will disputes can become a family tragedy

Posted: 12th December 2016

Last WillFamily inheritance disputes can be witheringly sad and it is absolutely essential to seek independent legal advice to ensure that peace prevails after you are gone.

In one case, Michael Inchbald's death, leaving a £16 million fortune after enjoying a successful career and living in one of London's most expensive private homes, raised the curtain on years of venomous dispute between his two children, Courtenay and Amanda.

The man’s will was as simple as could be, in that it left his estate equally between his son and daughter. However, by a previous will, Amanda had been left her share only for her lifetime. That would have meant that, on her death, her inheritance would have passed to her brother or, if he did not survive her, his children.

Following Mr Inchbald's death, aged 92, Courtenay launched proceedings, claiming that he lacked knowledge and approval of the contents of the later will at the time of its execution as he was suffering from dementia. He argued that the earlier document was his last true will.

In rejecting those arguments, however, the High Court found that Courtenay had lost all sense of perspective about the case, to which he had devoted himself full time for three years. He had persuaded himself, contrary to the evidence, that his sister and his mother had engaged in a conspiracy to overcome his father’s free will.

There was nothing remarkable or suspicious about the man’s decision to make an equal and outright division of his estate between his children, and the Court had no hesitation in concluding that he was fully aware of the nature and effect of the document he was signing.