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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

Will disputes: Dispute over Daventry man’s estate

A local case was in the High Court last month when Paul Tociapski claimed his brother, Boris, had put pressure on their father, Igor Tociapski, to transfer his Weedon property to him in February 2010.  Paul also claimed that their father’s 2009 will was invalid on the grounds of testamentary capacity and lack of knowledge and approval. Judge Stuart Isaacs QC decided that there was no sufficient evidence to satisfy him that the late Mr Tociapski had made the transfer of his £350,000 home to Boris with full, free and informed thought. He therefore set the transfer aside for reasons of undue influence. The judge also considered the validity of Igor Tociapski’s 2009 which left everything to Boris.  The judge accepted that there were suspicious circumstances surrounding the will ; namely that there appeared to be no rational reason for Paul to have been cut out of his father’s will, …Read More

Wills: Confusion over lifetime gifts made to beneficiaries of a will

The recent case of Kloosman v Aylen highlights the confusion that can arise when lifetime gifts are given to the same people who are due to benefit under a will. In September 2007, Richard Frost made a will that divided his estate into thirds; one third for his daughter Linda, one third for his daughter Susan and the remaining third for his son and grandchildren. Soon after making the will, Mr Frost sold his London house for £350,000 and moved in with his daughter Linda.  A few weeks later, knowing he was dying of cancer, he made cash gifts of £100,000 each to Linda and Susan. When Mr Frost died in March 2008, his estate consisted of the remaining £137,000 from the sale of his house. The question was, had Mr Frost intended the gifts to be advance payment to Linda and Susan from their thirds?  Or did he want them each to inherit a third of the remaining £137,000 in addition to the £100,000 they had …Read More

Wills GUEST BLOG: When is a testamentary capacity report needed?

My Practice receives a lot of enquiries about Mental Capacity Reports but less instructions.  Clients do not seem to understand their value and perhaps the same is true for some solicitors.  Yet on a regular basis, my elderly psychiatrist colleagues charge many thousands of pounds to sift through the medical records of deceased people, whose wills are being contested, with no guarantee of any conclusion being reachable. In contrast an assessment done specifically to address the testamentary capacity of someone about to make a will is a relatively easy exercise and a brief report from a psychiatrist can be used after death as much clearer evidence, especially if it addresses the specific issues which are likely to be controversial. As with any instruction the psychiatrist is looking for the questions the solicitor wants answered, but also what, if any, controversial issue there are in the case.  These could relate to …Read More