Will Dispute – From Centre Court to High Court
By Victoria Jones, partner at Lester Aldridge LLP
As the 2013 Wimbledon final approaches, the High Court has been hearing how a family outing to Wimbledon in 2007 might affect the outcome of family’s contested will dispute.
Daphne Jeffrey died in 2010, leaving an estimated estate of £500,000. Her sons, Andrew and Nick Jeffery, are currently arguing over the validity of their mother’s will, which leaves the majority of her estate to Nick.
Andrew Jeffrey alleges that the will is invalid, as Ms Jeffery was frail and suffered from physical and mental health problems when her last will was prepared in 2007.
Nick Jeffery maintains that the will is valid and that the trip which he and his wife, Nicola Jeffrey, made with his mother to Centre Court in 2007 (just two days prior to his mother making her will), demonstrates that his mother was in good health at that time and had the necessary testamentary capacity required to make a valid will.
Nick Jeffrey’s wife, Nicola, explained to the court that Daphne Jeffrey drove them to Wimbledon and appeared to enjoy their day of watching Venus Williams win another Wimbledon title.
At one stage, the tennis references in the case apparently confused the court, when the judge queried whether a reference to the family having met outside the “court” was a referring to Wimbledon or the court building.
The outcome of the case is yet to be determined but if Andrew Jeffrey is successful, the intestacy rules are likely to apply. These come into effect when someone dies without making a will and in this case it is anticipated the estate would then be split equally between the two brothers.
If a will is declared invalid and there is no earlier will, the intestacy rules would usually apply in relation to an estate. It is therefore important to ensure that when you make your will, it is signed using the correct procedure, is properly drafted and accurately reflects your wishes.
If you suffer from any health problems which someone could later suggest may have affected your ability to make a valid will, you may also wish to consider with your experts ways in which you can minimise the risk of a future claim arising against your estate. For example, preparing a document known as a memorandum of wishes can be prepared to explain the reasons behind the contents of your will.