Nearly 8 years and 4 Court hearings later, the Court of Appeal has decided to set aside a Will made by a Martin Lavin in 2004, a few hours prior to his death. The case has resulted in calls for Parliament to legislate given that the legal argument related back to Wills Act of 1837, and indeed also made reference to a piece of legislation which is nearly 350 years old.
Mr Lavin changed his Will, in favour of his sister Anne Liston, which had been drawn up by her daughter. The Will was executed at his hospital beside and was witnessed by two nurses. Or at least that was what was thought. Mrs Liston died a few months later herself.
Mr Lavin’s nephew challenged the validity of the Will. The Court of Appeal have determined that Mrs Liston signed the document herself since Mr Lavin was too weak to hold a pen, despite the evidence of one of the nurses and Mrs Liston’s daughter that Mr Lavin had signed the document himself. The second nurse said that Mrs Liston had helped Mr Lavin and ‘guided’ his hand. The Court ruled that there was nothing to establish that Mr Lavin wanted his hand to be guided.
Each case will of course turn on its own unique facts and evidence but there is arguably a fundamental problem with someone ‘guiding the hand’ of another who transpires to be a resulting beneficiary. Until Parliament passes definitive legislation however, it will be for the Courts to determine what was or want not intended on a case by case basis, in the absence of a settlement or compromise.
For more information or advice about challenges to Wills, contact Richard Rodway on 0118 9756622 / 01491 570900.