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Challenging the will of a loved one is an unpleasant experience, overturning a disabled donor’s will is particularly upsetting, especially if you feel that your loved one has been taken advantage of, as was the situation in this case.

A family have a won a High Court battle to overturn their disabled brother’s will after he left his carer 95 per cent of his £1.1million estate.

David Poole died in March 2013, but a will was drawn up just weeks before his death, leaving the bulk of his estate to his carer Mark Everall. This revoked an earlier will that had been made in February 2012 that left the bulk of his estate to charity.

Mr Poole’s two brothers Darren and Sean were forced to go to the High Court after they challenged the validity of the 2013 will, in which they received nothing.

The judge said that Mr Everall had failed to show that Mr Poole knew and approved the terms of the will, also ruling that Mr Poole didn’t understand what he was doing so the will was not truly representing his intentions, he was ‘prone to suggestibility’ and to being led by those close to him and that he was satisfied Mr Everall used his relationship to isolate him.

What grounds did they have to challenge the Will?

The brothers challenged the 2013 will on the grounds that Mr Poole did not know and approve the contents.  It is a pre-requisite to a valid will that you must know and approve the contents of the will at the time you sign it and your signature is witnessed.  For most people this is straightforward.  For others, who may be elderly or have mental health issues, the person drafting the will must be satisfied that you do know and approve the contents.

Mr Poole’s specific circumstances were that he had suffered head injuries in a motorcycle accident some years previously that meant that he had a Court of Protection Deputy that had been appointed to manage Mr Poole’s financial and property affairs.  The Deputy had assisted Mr Poole with the drafting of all of his previous wills that all followed a similar theme leaving his estate to family members, his girlfriend and a number of charities.

The 2013 will had been drafted by Mr Everall without any assistance from the Deputy and that will left 95% of Mr Poole’s estate to Mr Everall and 5% to his girlfriend.

Whilst anyone is entitled to make a home made will without the involvement of legal advisors due to Mr Poole’s situation and him being a vulnerable adult the circumstances and timing of the 2013 naturally rang alarm bells.

The Court ultimately determined that Mr Poole did not know and approve the contents of the new will and in reaching this conclusion relied on the fact that Mr Everall did not make it known to others that the 2013 will had been drafted until after Mr Poole’s death and had ensured that the Deputy had had no involvement in the drafting or the signing of the document

Lessons to be learned

The ultimate advice that can be taken away from this is that you should make sure that your Will is drafted by a fully qualified solicitor that has expertise in Wills Trusts and Probate.  A solicitor will put the necessary precautions and steps in place to ensure that your will should not be challenged on the grounds of knowledge and approval.

If anyone looking after / responsible for a vulnerable adult, as per Mr Poole, is asked to assist with the drafting of a will they should ensure that all relevant persons responsible for that individual are notified and that the will is drafted by a solicitor.  Home made wills leave matters open to challenge.

To Act On It and discuss your Will with one of our qualified solicitors, call us on 0343 507 5151 or email actonit@gorvins.com. Alternatively if you wish to dispute a Will that has been made, call me or another expert in our estate dispute team.

See here for further information about Wills.

If you would like to speak to someone in our Wills, Trusts and Probate team call 0343 507 5151 or e-mail willdisputesteam@gorvins.com