A daughter has successfully challenged her mother’s will in the High Court, giving her a share of the £325,000 inheritance.
The deceased, Jean Clitheroe, had left her entire estate to her son, John, leaving nothing to her daughter, Susan Bond.
Prior to her death in 2017, Mrs Clitheroe had drafted versions of her will in 2010 and 2013. She also left a letter of wishes, in which she stated that she did not want Susan to inherit anything as she was “a shopaholic and would just fritter it away.”
In a note to her lawyers, she also claimed that “Susan hasn’t done anything for me, as far as she is concerned I could have starved to death.”
An attendance note from the solicitor that drafted the will also recorded Mrs Clitheroe calling her daughter a “spendthrift and will just spend her inheritance”.
After her death, John fulfilled his role and executor and trustee and dealt with the final wishes of his mother. Once any debts, legacies, gifts and chattels were distributed, John then kept the residuary as his inheritance.
At this stage, Mrs Clitheroe’s daughter, Susan, brought action to oppose her brother’s application of probate, arguing a number of points that could invalidate their mother’s Will.
Mrs Bond argued that their mother was without testamentary capacity due to suffering from a complex grief reaction following the death of another child.
She also claimed her mother’s “insane delusions” regarding her spending habits were due to John poisoning their mother’s mind.
High Court ruling
The High Court voided both versions of the will and found that Mrs Clitheroe had died intestate. As a result, the estate was split equally between both siblings.
The judge accepted that Mrs Clitheroe did indeed suffer from “insane delusional beliefs”, but did not believe her son had poisoned her mind against her daughter.
To avoid the potential for conflict, individuals are advised to seek a capacity assessment at the time of drafting a will.
A report confirming the person’s capacity to make a will can be effective in ensuring the will is admitted to probate and prevent grounds for conflict and challenge. This is particularly useful if the person making the will is, for example, elderly, has a poor mental health record, or takes medication that could affect their reasoning.