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Tag Archives: contentious probate

Will disputes: What are suspicious circumstances?

One of the grounds commonly used to contest a will is that the testator didn’t know or approve the contents of their will.  This is called “want of knowledge and approval”. The court will look at all of the ‘suspicious’ circumstances in connection with the disputed will when dealing with want of knowledge and approval allegations. Here are 7 things to look out for, which could be considered ‘suspicious’: The Will is homemade and no professional advice has been sought; The Will contains spelling mistakes and/or untrue statements and/or uses language which would not have been used or understood by the testator; The Will contains a radical change in dispositions made without a rational explanation and/or generally the dispositions cannot be rationally explained; The relationship of the beneficiary to the testator was not close; The witnesses to the Will were not sufficiently independent; There is evidence of the beneficiary having …Read More

Probate: What happens when beneficiaries want to remove an executor or administrator?

I often come across cases where personal representatives and beneficiaries don’t get on and one party wants to remove another.  Can this be done after an executor or administrator has obtained a Grant of Probate or a Grant of Letters of Administration? The short answer is yes, but there needs to be a very good reason! An application to remove or substitute a personal representative is usually brought under s50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985.  The court will then consider the welfare of the beneficiaries. Removal applications are expensive and the court will therefore want to see a compelling reason for the removal, together with evidence that that no alternative means of resolving the dispute exists. The person making the removal application will need to show that the estate cannot be properly administered for the benefit of the beneficiaries in the existing situation.  Applications based on personal friction, which do not impede …Read More

Will disputes: Children of abusive father unsuccessfully challenge his will

This is a sad case involving the children of wealthy businessman Alfred Stewart, who died in 2008. His children, Garry, Calum, Linden and Leonie, claimed Mr Stewart was an abusive sexual predator.  In 2005 he made a will that left his £6.7 million estate to charity, completely excluding his four children. The children raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to set aside their father’s 2005 will (and later amendments to it) on the basis that he was paranoid and delusional when he made his will. The court heard evidence that Mr Stewart was verbally and physically abusive to his children and his first wife, Lynne Buchan.  There was also evidence that he propositioned other women and sexually abused a child from about the age of four. Psychiatrists also told the court that Mr Stewart had a paranoid personality disorder. The judge, Lord Brailsford, said, “He seems to have been sexually …Read More

Will disputes: Court decides Will that cut family out is invalid.

The family of  Iris Jolly have been battling in the High Court to prevent her estate passing to her elderly friends. Mrs Jolly made a will in August 2010, less than two months before she died at the age of 80, which left an estate worth £500,000 to her  “dear friends” Richard and Pamela Phythian, both in their 70s. Mrs Jolly’s family claimed the will was not validly executed and she lacked the mental capacity to make the will at the time it was written. The court heard that Mrs Jolly had suffered severe mental decline after the deaths of her husband Alf and her twin brother.   Mrs Jolly’s niece Lynda Turner said her aunt was a  lonely, housebound, childless widow who was open to suggestion.  She believed Mr Phythian persuaded Mrs Jolly to make the will. Mr Phythian admitted drawing up the will for Mrs Jolly.  He was appointed sole executorin the will and he had also witnessed …Read More