Those who delay making a professionally drafted will until they reach advanced old age are making a mistake for which their loved ones are likely to pay in the long run. In one case, a woman’s three children were left at loggerheads after she signed a new will bequeathing all that she had to just one of them.
Under an earlier will, the woman had divided her estate equally between her children. However, just over a year before she died, she made a new one, cutting two of them out. By then she was in poor health and aged 82. She had not engaged a solicitor to draft the will or advise her in respect of its contents.
After the disinherited children launched proceedings, their brother pointed out that he had lived with their mother and cared for her until her death. It was submitted that she had understandably wanted to reward him for his devotion and that there was nothing irrational about the will.
In overturning the will, however, a judge found that the woman had lacked the required mental capacity to execute it. Ten years before she signed it, she had suffered a stroke and been diagnosed with cerebro-vascular disease. She had later been recorded as suffering from Parkinson’s disease and a query had been raised as to whether she also had dementia.
The cumulative effect of medical evidence, the testimony of members of her family, the appearance of the will and the fact that no lawyer was involved in its preparation all weighed in favour of the disinherited children. The judge’s ruling meant that the earlier will automatically came into effect, entitling each child to an equal share of their mother’s estate.