Confused and Inebriated Not Grounds for Invalidating Will

September 10, 2012

Confused and Inebriated Not Grounds for Invalidating Will

When an elderly woman decided to make a new will giving her entire estate to her neighbour, the attendance note prepared by the firm she had initially approached to do the work formed a large part of the evidence when her will was subsequently challenged by her granddaughter.

The granddaughter alleged that her grandmother’s neighbour had used ‘undue influence’ to persuade her to make a will in his favour. He had been present when the solicitor visited the woman to take her instructions for the will and she referred to him for guidance. She showed a significant degree of forgetfulness and confusion, to the extent that the solicitor wished to obtain a doctor’s opinion on her mental capacity to make a will.

The woman later contacted the solicitor, saying that she did not want to see a doctor and no longer wished to go ahead with making the will. Her neighbour later telephoned the firm to confirm this. It was the view of the solicitor that the neighbour was involved in that decision.

She then found a new solicitor, who prepared a will for her that passed her entire estate to her neighbour.

When the will was challenged in court, evidence was produced that the woman had been taking a cocktail of drugs and also drank heavily. She was normally inebriated by mid-morning and also suffered from confusion.

Surprisingly, the judge ruled that there was ‘no arguable case’ that the neighbour had exercised undue influence over the woman and rejected the challenge to the will.

The case shows how high the hurdle is that has to be overcome in order to demonstrate that a will has been procured by undue influence.