Making a will without professional advice is a positive invitation to dispute after you are gone. That was certainly so in the case of a vulnerable alcoholic who had a pint of beer in front of him when he signed will forms in a pub, leaving everything he owned to a taxi driver who had been kind to him.

By a previous will, the man had left his entire estate – valued at about £160,000 – to the partner with whom he lived and who had done much to help him. However, their relationship was not always easy and, about two months before his death, he made a new will. The taxi driver, who regularly ferried him around and with whom he had formed a friendship, was named as his sole beneficiary.

After the taxi driver applied for a grant of probate in respect of the later will, a judge rejected claims that it was a forgery or that he had brought undue influence to bear upon his benefactor. However, he found that the latter had at the time lacked the mental capacity required to make a valid will, and that it had also not been established that he knew and approved of the document’s contents.

The judge noted that two versions of the will had been completed in identical terms on forms which had been bought by the taxi driver on the Internet. Both had been signed in a pub and it was unlikely that the pint in front of the deceased was the first drink he had had that day. There was evidence that a stroke and his long-term excessive consumption of alcohol had rendered him vague, forgetful and confused.

The judge pronounced in favour of the previous will, with the result that the deceased’s partner will inherit the entirety of his estate. Even had the later will been valid, the judge found that the partner would have been entitled to inherit the benefactor’s main asset, his home. As a dependant and the civil partner of the deceased, he was due reasonable provision from the estate by virtue of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

For help on wills, trusts and probate speak to Charlotte Jones or a member of our private client team and for disputing or will or probate please speak to Kam or Hayley-Jo in our dispute resultoution/contentious probate team on 0808 166 8860

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