The recent case involving a daughter who was only left a small gift in her father's estate demonstrates the risks of challenging a Will and ultimately being unsuccessful. She now faces losing her home in order to pays the costs incurred in the case.
Sonya Young, gave up her job to concentrate on the legal battle with the lifeboat charity RNLI in 2015 after she found out that her father, Brian Cole, a former lifeboatman had largely "disinherited" her in his Will. Mr Cole left the large proportion of his estate to the charity (£268,000.00) whilst leaving Mrs Young and Mr Cole's former partner, were left £5,000.00 each.
Mr Cole tragically took his own life just 25 days after he had executed his last Will in 2013. Mrs Young argued that Mr Cole was not in his right mind when he signed the Will and lacked testamentary capacity. She said that he had a history of alcohol abuse and suggested that he may have been deluded when making the Will. She also pointed out that he committed suicide just over 3 weeks later.
Mr Cole had made two previous Wills one in 2008 and one in 2012. In the 2008 Will, Mrs Young was the main heir to the estate whereas in 2012, Mr Cole disinherited her in favour of his partner, Angela Saunders.
In July 2019, the Judge ruled in favour of the charity and upheld the 2013 Will concluding that Mr Cole knew what he was doing and had made a conscious decision to largely "disinherit" his daughter after a bad falling out. The charity said that there had been a troubled history between Mr Cole and Mrs Young and there had been a "fundamental disagreement" between them. The decision that the Judge had to make was not whether Mr Cole's actions were "fair or kind" but whether he had the requisite capacity at the time of entering into the Will.
The Court heard that Mrs Young had dissipated £54,000.00 of estate money and the Judge ordered her to pay the remaining £214,000.00 to the RNLI.
At the charity's request, charging orders have now been placed on Mrs Young's house (which she was transferred to her as part of the financial settlement reached on her divorce from her husband). The charging orders amount to over £140,000.00 which covers the shortfall owed to the charity plus the costs and interest that she has been ordered to pay.
The case also demonstrates how important it is to have a professionally drafted Will. The Judge concluded that the terms of Mr Cole's Will were "clear" emphasising that the Will was "… valid, rational on its face, and prepared by an experienced solicitor". The solicitor knew Mr Cole and felt that he was of sound mind and had the requisite capacity to enter into the Will.
Although having a Will professionally drawn up may seem a costly exercise, it is extremely important that you receive legal advice. This will mean that you can discuss any potential claims that may be made after you have passed away and discuss the steps that may be taken in order to minimise that risk.
With one of the largest Wills, Trusts and Probate departments in Norfolk, we have a reputation for providing the local community with an extensive range of private client services. Click here for more information on the Will Writing service we offer.If you have concerns about a Will then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We have a specialist team who deal with Will disputes and contentious probate who are able to talk you through your options and provide advice on next steps.
For more information or to arrange a telephone appointment, contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using 'Make an enquiry' online form on our website. Appointments are available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.
*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.