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/ 20 Jul 2011

Challenging the Validity of a Will

Challenging the validity of a will is often very complex and many clients seek straight forward legal assistance on probate practice and procedure as well as the merits of their claim.

Claire Martin


Head of Private Client

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A recent judgment handed down by the High Court has provided further guidance to those seeking to challenge the validity of a will.

Following a costly seven day trial, it was ruled that Helen Blofield, in her 80s, “knew what she was doing” when she disinherited her Grandaughter from her £150,000 estate in favour of Lionel Cranfield, her former neighbour.

Instructions were taken for the will on the 31st October 2006 by a firm of solicitors on Mrs Blofields’ behalf. Days prior to this, on the 20th October 2006, Mrs Blofield had been seen by a different firm of solicitors, who had sufficient concerns regarding her mental capacity to refuse to proceed without positive medical evidence detailing her capacity to provide instructions.

Medical evidence is often very important in determining an individual’s capacity to provide instructions to a solicitor. Mrs Blofield had asked to change her will leaving the entirety of her estate from being in favour of her Granddaughter, Leigh Cowderoy, to that of street paver, Lionel Cranfield.

Following Mrs Blofield’s death in October 2008, Ms Cowderoy, an airline executive, sought to challenge the validity of the will which had been amended by the second firm of solicitors visited by Mrs Blofield and argued that Mr Cranfield had coerced her Grandmother into changing the will and took her inheritance away from her.

At the time of Mrs Blofield’s death, Ms Cowderoy had worked for an airline company and rarely saw her Grandmother. Mister Justice Morgan concluded that Mrs Blofield’s decision to amend the will was influenced by her belief that if she did so, and told Mr Cranfield that she had done so, then he would continue to visit and care for her in the subsequent years.

Mr Justice Morgan stated that “Mrs Blofield had good days and bad days.” On hearing evidence from both sets of probate solicitors and numerous other witnesses as to Mrs Blofield’s mental capacity on and around the time of making changes to her will, he ruled that her “condition did fluctuate principally as a result of the combined effect of her medication and the consumption of alcohol” and that the 20th October was “a bad day” and it may have been that there were doubts as to Mrs Blofield’s capacity on the particular day in question.

The case highlights the importance of timing. Whilst evidence showing that the testator lacked capacity around the time of making a will can throw doubt on its validity, the determining factors will always be capacity at the time of instruction and execution.

How can Hanne & Co help?

Hanne & Co’s probate solicitors are experienced in advising and representing clients who seek to challenge a will and have a wealth of knowledge in representing clients seeking advice on making an Inheritance Act claim. We are able to offer appointments for legal assistance without delay at very competitive rates.

If you need any advice on wills, probate and trusts, or you would like to challenge a will or make a claim if you feel you have not been fairly provided for then please contact Hanne & Co today, your friendly local solicitors who offer expert advice.

To make an appointment with our London law firm’s wills department, please call 020 7228 0017 or email info@hanne.co.uk

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