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Clitheroe v Bond: Birkett Long success in High Court will dispute

View profile for Rachel Leech
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Birkett Long success in High Court will dispute

In the recent contentious probate case of Clitheroe v Bond, the court overturned the validity of two wills. The Defendant, who was represented by Birkett Long, was successful in the will dispute on the ground that the Deceased lacked mental capacity to make them. 

The Deceased had three children, but sadly her eldest daughter died in 2009. Before then, the two sisters and their mother had an extremely close relationship but that unfortunately changed upon the sister’s death. The Deceased made a will in 2010, and another one in 2013, which excluded her youngest daughter, the Defendant. The two wills left most of her estate to her son, the Claimant. 

When the Deceased made her wills, she gave explicit reasons for excluding the Defendant. These included allegations that the Defendant was a shopaholic, and that she stole various items, some of which belonged to her late sister. 

The court found that the Deceased had no rational basis for these allegations and that they were delusions. Furthermore, the Deceased was so deeply affected by the bereavement following the death of her daughter, she was suffering from a disorder of the mind. She therefore lacked the testamentary capacity to make the wills. 

The legal test for testamentary capacity comes from the case of Banks v Goodfellow (1870), which states a person making a will must:

  • Understand the nature and effect of his act;
  • Understand the extent of the property he is disposing;
  • Be able to comprehend and appreciate the claim to which he ought to give effect; and
  • Not be suffering from a disorder of the mind, or suffering from any insane delusions, that poisons his affections

As the Deceased lacked testamentary capacity, both wills were found to be invalid. This now means the estate will be dealt with according to the rules of intestacy, so the estate will be split 50/50 between the son and daughter. 

If you are concerned about the validity of a will or would like to challenge a will, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01206 217623 or rachel.leech@birkettlong.co.uk.

Birkett Long has the largest contested probate team in Essex and has vast experience dealing with all types of claims against estates. 

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