Rational and fair bequests are almost never overturned by the courts and that is one good reason why you should seek legal advice before making a will. In one case, a farmer’s decision to leave none of his £3 million estate to his son survived intense High Court scrutiny.

The farmer, who died aged 81, left the entirety of his estate to his widow and two daughters. In challenging the validity of his will, his son argued that he lacked the mental capacity to make it. The son also claimed that he had worked hard in the family business for 35 years in reliance on his father’s promise that he would inherit the whole of the farm in due course.

In rejecting the challenge, however, the Court noted that, during his father’s lifetime, the son had received £200,000 in cash, his father’s share of a haulage business and some valuable land. In those circumstances, the farmer had appreciated that the balance needed to be redressed as between his three children and had rationally achieved that objective by the terms of his will. Although he suffered from memory loss and occasional confusion towards the end of his life, the Court found that he was capable of making a valid will.

The son, who had been paid for his work at the going rate, genuinely believed that he had been promised the farm on his father’s death. However, he had failed to establish on the evidence that the frugal and self-made farmer had given him any binding assurance to that effect.

If you are in need of advice on will matters, please contact Ravinder Sandhu r.sandhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk on 0121 698 2200 or Kam Majevadia on contentious matters or complete our online enquiry form.

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