Solicitor's Evidence Decisive in Resolving Bitter Family Inheritance Dispute

Taking legal advice when making your will is more than likely to reap dividends after you are gone. In one case, a solicitor's wholly reliable evidence proved decisive in resolving an extraordinarily bitter family inheritance dispute.

By his final will, a man left his residuary estate to the sister of a woman with whom he had lived for many years but who predeceased him. The validity of the will was, however, challenged in court by the woman's two children. They said that the man had treated them as his sons whilst they were growing up and that he would not have wanted to disinherit them.

Arguing that a previous will, under which they stood to benefit substantially, should be admitted to probate, they asserted that the last will was a product of fraudulent calumny on the sister's part. They contended that she had poisoned the man's mind against them by casting dishonest aspersions on their characters.

Ruling on the matter, the High Court comprehensively rejected those allegations. As a result of the behaviour of his partner's children following her death, the man had formed his own unfavourable views of them and their conduct. The formation of those views was entirely uninfluenced by the sister's conduct.

In reaching those conclusions, the Court placed heavy reliance on the evidence of a solicitor who helped the man prepare the final will. She had interviewed him on his own and advised him independently. Her account, which the Court accepted in its entirety, was that he knew what he was doing and why he was doing it and that he acted as a free agent when he executed the document. The Court pronounced in favour of the final will and directed its admission to probate.