Legal

Wills validity challenges in the news

The latest high profile will contest in the High Court sees the family of prima ballerina and choreographer Clover Roope in a battle with her goddaughter.

19 Apr 2022

Team name
Martyn Trenerry

Martyn Trenerry

The dancer, who died in April 2019, left her entire estate to her nephews in a Will made in 2011, which replaced a 2006 Will.  The earlier version had left quarter of her estate to Emma Hindmarsh, who claims that Ms Roope, a committed feminist, ‘wasn’t in her right mind’ when she cut her out of the Will as there was no credible reason for such a change.

Ms Hindmarsh is challenging the validity of the newest Will, claiming that the fact men were involved in it being changed proves that Ms Roope had lost her mental capacity by the time it was made. Ms Roope was suffering from dementia when she died and her goddaughter says the condition must have been so advanced by 2011 that she didn’t know what she was doing. The case is continuing.

Will validity challenges are becoming more common.

The key requirements for a Will to be valid in England and Wales are that it:

  1. Be in writing;
  2. Is made by a person over 18 years of age (unless exemptions apply);
  3. Meets the formalities of signing and witnessing;
  4. Is made voluntarily with understanding of the document and free from outside influence or fraud; and
  5. That the person making the will (“the testator”) has the required capacity to do so (often referred to as being of sound mind).

The test for testamentary capacity to make a Will is well established:

  • The testator should understand their act in making the Will and the effect of the Will;
  • They should understand what property they have and which is being dealt with/disposed of under the Will;
  • They need to appreciate the claims that may relate to their estate and who they will be giving gifts/inheritances to; and
  • They should not be suffering from a disorder of the mind that would impact their ability to make decisions or understand the Will and its impacts.

M&P Commentary

Martyn Trenerry, Member and Solicitor in Contested Wills, said:

“The test applies to the capacity of the testator at the time they are making the Will and so evidence from that time will be necessary in a dispute over the validity of the Will. Some mental health issues can mean that capacity fluctuates, and this makes medical evidence even more important. In cases where the testator has known health conditions, is frail/elderly or vulnerable, it is also best practice for the Will drafter to arrange for a medical report to be prepared on capacity.

If a Will appears rational, then there is a presumption that the testator will have had capacity to make that Will. It is for the person alleging the testator lacked capacity to raise a dispute and evidence casting doubt on the capacity, at which point the person trying to uphold the Will would need to prove the capacity of the testator.

Disputes over capacity and validity of a Will can be very complex and so seeking early specialist advice is always best.”

 

 

OUR CLIENTS SAY ABOUT US

Ranked highly in Romford and Brentwood for solicitor firms

Trusts and Probate
We would like to thank Anne and Manzurul for helping to make our probate application go smoothly and efficiently. We found the process very professional.
M McDermott
Wills
From start to finish our needs were handled with all due care and attention to detail.
Anonymous
Residential Property
Svetlana at Mullis & Peake recently handled our divorce transactions and house purchase, no fuss, straight forward advice, great communication and handled efficiently.
Mcdocat
Residential Property
Trusts and Probate
Excellent service and very good advice on both recent matters. Mullis & Peake have acted for our family for many years and have proved very professional on each occasion
Terry
Residential Property
Mullis & Peake dealt with both the sale and purchase for my mum's properties. Paul is professional, helpful and efficient. Explained all the processes in a timely manner. Top quali...
Jenny
Family
I've found the service I've received at Mullis and Peake to be courteous, professional and highly recommendable.
Carole
Family
Special thanks to Roisin McCorry for her professionalism, resolve, patience, and the support she provided during this very difficult time.
Richard
Dispute resolution
Extremely satisfied with service received from Mullis & Peake. I would thoroughly recommend their service as they were recommended to me.
Paul

Related News insights

Commercial Disputes, Legal, Business, Contract Disputes & Debt Recovery, Debt Recovery
Start the new tax year with better debt recovery processes
Family & Divorce, Legal, Divorce, Family law
No more blame but challenges remain for divorcing couples
Dispute Resolution, Legal, Landlord & Tenant (Residential)
Assured Shorthold Tenancies: A guide to the Section 21 Procedure
Legal, Wills & Power of Attorney, Wills
Wills validity challenges in the news