Contested Wills and Financial Provision
Concerns about coerced Will rewriting
There has been an ongoing High Court case concerning a challenge brought by a property tycoon’s son over his late father’s £100 million estate.
The case centres on a disputed Will. Louise Reeves is said to have bullied her ailing father into changing his will to leave most of his fortune to her, some £80m.
The claim brought her brother, Bill Reeves, who has seen his inheritance reduced from £30m to personal effects said to be worth £200,000, has accused his sister of having coerced their father into rewriting his Will. This change was said to be out of character and inexplicable, given that he had always had a good relationship with his father and that they were so close he had offered to donate a lung to his father, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The Court heard that Kevin Reeves had, from humble beginnings, created a vast personal fortune through a property empire now worth up to £100m. Ms Reeves claims their father wanted her to inherit the fortune as he saw her as the heir to his business empire.
In cases where there might be doubt about the validity of a Will there are a number of grounds on which the Will might be challenged, depending on the circumstances:
- There might be concerns about the testator’s mental capacity
- Whether they knew they were making a will or understood its terms
- Whether a key beneficiary has applied undue influence to procure a Will in their favour
- There might even be concerns about whether the Will is genuine at all
- Whether there has been a fraud or forgery.
There is often an overlap between the different grounds, and a challenge to a Will can be brought on several grounds.
Martyn Trenerry, specialist in contested wills at Mullis & Peake LLP Solicitors, said:
“A claim to set aside a Will can only succeed where there is compelling and persuasive documentary evidence or evidence from independent third parties to support it. It is therefore vitally important to take legal advice on your position in this respect before embarking on litigation, which can incur significant costs and delay in administering the estate, not to mention the inevitable breakdown of family relations.”