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Grieving Widow's Will Declared Invalid

An 80-year-old woman’s will has been declared invalid by the High Court on the ground that she was suffering a grief reaction following the deaths of her husband and her twin brother when she signed it. The woman did not, at the time in question, have capacity to execute a valid will nor did she understand and approve of its contents, the High Court ruled.

In her will, the woman had left by far her most substantial asset – a house valued at £500,000 – to a couple who were close friends rather than to members of her family. It was argued by the couple that she had not been on good terms with her family and that the bequest to them was in recognition of substantial assistance and support they had given her towards the end of her life.

However, upholding a challenge to the will pursued by the woman’s niece, the Court concluded that the woman was suffering from an affective disorder brought about by her grief at the deaths of her brother and her husband, combined with her continuing fragile mental state arising from her advanced age.

Judge Vivien Rose observed, “She was a person whose mental state was fragile throughout her adult life, particularly in response to bereavement. In my view, therefore…when the will was made, (the evidence) indicates that she was likely to be undergoing a severe grief reaction.

“The fact that I have found that she did not have mental capacity to make the will means that she did not know or approve of the contents of the will either. The contested will is invalid on two grounds.”

The Court’s ruling means that the woman died intestate and her estate will therefore pass to her next of kin.

Click here for more information on mental capacity.
Click here for a guide to the rules of intestacy.

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The grounds for challenging a Will are many and varied, ranging from technical deficiencies in the execution of the Will itself, to allegations that the Will was forged or otherwise produced fraudulently or by the exertion of unlawful pressure.  By far the most common argument is that the deceased lacked the required mental capacity to make the Will.

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.