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15th October 2020

Will drafted by main beneficiary upheld…just

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In the recent case of McCarthy v McCarthy, a will prepared by the beneficiary and signed by the deceased was upheld by the Court, despite some serious reservations.

Margaret passed away in 2016, survived by her three children: Edward, Dennis and Leslie. In 1998, she bought her home, using funds provided by Edward. In October 2014, Edward was living with his mother. He claimed that whilst friends were round for tea, his mother told him that the property would be left to him. Edward immediately typed out a will, which his mother signed, witnessed by Edward’s friends.

Leslie and Dennis claimed their mother either did not understand the contents of the will or signed it under duress from Edward. The Court was concerned by Edward’s account, particularly as his mother had a possible diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. It was also concerned that the will was signed at home rather than at the office of Margaret’s long-time solicitor and that it was in the presence of Edward’s best friend and his wife.

Despite its concerns, the Court stopped short of finding that will was invalid. It was undisputed that Edward had helped purchase the property and much of the case revolved around a Deed from the time of the purchase. Leslie and Dennis also contested the validity of this deed but the Court rejected this claim. Against the background of this Deed, the Court held that the will prepared by Edward was consistent with the dealings with the property and that it was not convinced that Margaret misunderstood or signed under undue influence.

Although the will was upheld, it is clear from the judgment that the Court had grave concerns. It is possible that, had the change in the will not reflected the history of the property and been limited to the property (the rest of the will was unchanged from Margaret’s previous will), the Court would have would have ruled differently.

For more information on any of the items raised in this article please contact Tiffany Benson by clicking here.

Case Citation: McCarthy v McCarthy [2020] EW Misc 10 (CC)