Many people fail to make a will, thus causing problems for surviving family members. However, difficulties can also arise when a person makes several wills, particularly if these contain drafting errors.
A recent case concerned a woman who died having made a will in 2004. The will had been prepared by a firm of will writers – which has since been wound up – and it superseded a will made in 1996 that had been drawn up by a solicitor. The earlier will appointed the woman’s daughter as the sole executor of her will. It made a few specific bequests and left the residue of her estate to her daughter.
The later will made one of the woman’s sons her sole executor and beneficiary. He had looked after her for the eight years prior to her death in 2007. This will was opposed by the woman’s other two surviving children on the ground that she did not ‘know and approve’ of its contents.
One aspect of the later will which, it was suggested, showed that the woman was not competent when she signed it was that her date of birth was shown incorrectly.
The witnesses to the will were friends of the son and gave evidence that the woman’s signature was not obtained under duress.
Whilst there was evidence that the woman had a good relationship with all her children, a diary comment that her son had ‘given up his freedom to look after me and I am so very grateful and feel guilty’ was admitted in evidence of her state of mind when she made the 2004 will.
In addition, there was copious evidence that the woman’s mental faculties were unimpaired at the time the final will was drafted.
The claim that the 2004 will should be set aside in favour of the 1996 will was, in the circumstances, doomed to failure.
Click here for guidance on undue influence.