Case study: £500,000 settlement for property dispute after long-lost Will found
Our inheritance dispute solicitors successfully brought a claim on behalf of Ms C, in a case over a Will dispute and the late testator’s knowledge of the document.
Ms C met the late testator, Mr E, in approximately 1968 when the two became friends. They subsequently purchased a house together for £14,500. The arrangement was that the house would be jointly owned and converted into four flats. Ms C and Mr E would each occupying a flat, with the remaining flats rented out.
This arrangement was never fully realised. The house remained registered in Mr E’s sole name and, over the years, the property became dilapidated. Ms C eventually left the house to live alone, but remained friends with Mr E, who made his own Will in the early 1990s.
The Will appointed Ms C as sole executor and beneficiary of his estate. It was signed and witnessed by his two friends. Mr E showed the Will to Ms C at the time to reassure her of her retained interest in the jointly purchased property.
Discovering the missing Will
Sadly, in late 2013, Mr E died of vascular dementia. However, Ms C was not informed at the time and did not immediately hear of Mr E’s illness or subsequent death. A distant relative of Mr E was appointed as personal representative of his estate in December 2013, following an extensive search to locate a Will. The personal representative was one of 10 distant relatives who stood to inherit the estate in absence of a Will. They sold the estate property in April 2014 for £750,000.
In July 2014, Ms C discovered the deceased’s Will in the cardboard box in her garage, where Mr E had been known to leave personal possessions before he travelled abroad. Ms C also remembered the jointly owned property at this time, and her enquiries with the estate agents led her to the personal representative’s solicitors. Ms C handed in the Will of Mr E as evidence of her claim to the estate.
The Will dispute
The personal representative on behalf of the intestacy beneficiaries disputed the authenticity and validity of the Will. A Defence was later filed alleging that the Will was a forgery, claiming fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, incapacity, and want of knowledge and approval. Expert evidence as to handwriting and signatures was obtained and relied upon by the parties.
The case eventually went to trial. After a heavily contested and acrimonious two-day trial, judgement was handed down in favour of Ms C. This backed the validity of Mr E’s Will and ordered the defendants to pay Ms C a substantial sum by way of her costs. Ms C received the whole of the deceased’s estate, equating to over half a million pounds.
Our client was understandably very grateful. This was a wonderful example of teamwork within litigation and inter-department co-operation, specifically with the support of our Wills and Probate team. The success of the Will dispute claim proves the depth of our expert knowledge and commitment to our clients.