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Challenging The Validity Of A Will – Solicitors Advice

There are five grounds upon which you can challenge the validity of a Will.  One of these grounds is that the deceased was “unduly influenced”.  This means that someone exerted considerable pressure over the deceased to force them to prepare a Will which does not reflect their true intentions. 

 

Claims for undue influence are notoriously difficult to bring yet the Court has recently issued a warning in the case of Schrader v Schrader.  This case acts as a warning to all of those who may have influenced someone into making a new Will and who then seek to defend a claim brought on the basis of “undue influence”.

In the case of Schrader v Schrader the deceased Jessica Schrader made a Will in 1990 leaving her Estate equally to her two sons, Nick Schrader and Bill Schrader.  In 2006 the deceased made a new Will gifting the entirety of her Estate to Nick Schrader.  The Estate mainly consisted of South End Farm House.  It was anticipated the property was worth in the region of £320,000.

Bill attempted to dispute the validity of the Will made in April 2006 on the basis that either his mother lacked the necessary mental capacity to make a valid Will or had been “unduly influenced” by his brother to make a new Will which departed from the provisions of the Will made in 1990 splitting the Estate equally.

Bill asserted that both his late mother and father had treated both brothers equally over the decades and that his mother would not have intended to depart from this approach of her own will.  The Court heard evidence that after Nick moved into the property with the deceased in 2005 she became very quiet and sheepish and she was said to have been afraid of Nick.  There were various assertions that Nick was aggressive, short tempered and a violent man.  Despite the strained relations between the brothers they continued to live 25 meters apart. It was suggested the deceased was fully aware of the difficulties created by Nick’s hostility to Bill to the extent that when Nick was out the deceased would place a piece of card in her window as a signal to Bill that it was safe for him to visit her.

After a four day hearing the High Court ruled that the deceased made the new Will leaving the entire Estate to Nick as a result of Nick’s undue influence over her. The original Will made in 1990 was reinstated restoring Bill’s half share of the property worth in the region of £160,000.  Not only will Nick lose half of the property but he also now faces having to pay costs in the region of £110,000.

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Stephens Scown Solicitors have 200 staff and 31 partners across three offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell. See Stephens Scown Solicitors in Exeter for more information or advice about family law.

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