If you believe an elderly or unwell family member changed their will without fully understanding this, you may have the right to challenge it.
Following the decision of a judge to remove an inheritance windfall from a carer who ‘guided the hand’ of an elderly man into signing over half his fortune to her, Jones & Co Solicitors is advising that wills, and any changes to them, are invalid if it can be shown their owner did not have clear knowledge of what was happening.
A judge recently ruled that a dying man had almost certainly lacked the capacity to execute his will when changes were made to it, and therefore did not know and approve of the contents of the will. The carer, who had drawn up a new will for him and led his hand in signing it, now faces a legal bill of up to £85,000.
James Murray, Dispute Resolution expert at Jones & Co Solicitors, said: “In this case, it was decided that the signature on the will was not in the owner’s handwriting. It was also shown that the man lacked mental capacity when the document was signed, so the will was not proven to have been executed by its owner.
“If family members or friends believe that a will may have been changed without the understanding of the owner, it’s important they seek legal advice. If someone has guided the will owner’s hand to sign it, for example, it may be decided that the signature was not written by the deceased.
“If the circumstances around creating a new will appear to be suspicious, the will may not be regarded as valid by a court. People who are in extremely poor health may not have the capacity to agree to or understand any changes to their will, which could lead a court to conclude the new will is invalid.
“Family members who have cause for concern, or believe a will is incompatible with what they believed to be the long term wishes of a deceased relative, should take advice.”