A cleaner’s court victory in challenging her employer’s £500,000 estate shows the importance of taking expert legal advice if there are concerns over a will’s validity, Thursfields Solicitors has advised.
The advice comes after Leonora Da Costa won a High Court battle to overturn a will that disinherited her from being the main beneficiary of ex-Savoy waiter Harold Tickner’s fortune.
The cleaner was written into Mr Tickner’s fortune in 2014 but just 16 days before his death in 2015 he gave his £500,000 Harrow home to his nephew in a new will cutting out Mrs Da Costa.
Now the High Court has ruled Mr Tickner lacked mental capacity when the later document was drawn up and that there was “no real doubt as to the validity” of the 2014 will – which means Mrs Da Costa could inherit around £415,000 of assets.
Georgia Morris, a Trainee Solicitor in Thursfields’ Dispute Resolution department, said: “Mrs Da Costa’s success highlights the importance of taking legal advice where concerns over gifts in wills arise.
Legal experts will be best placed to advise on the evidence needed to support such arguments, which are often the deciding factors in such cases.
Mrs Da Costa’s success was in large part due to the expert evidence put forward by her lawyers at trial.
This convinced the judge that Mr Tickner did not have the necessary mental capacity to have known what he was doing when he changed his will days prior to his death.”
Katherine Ellis, a Senior Associate Solicitor in Thursfields’ Kidderminster office, added: “Controversial gifts and wills are often called into question, and none more so than wills that have been executed shortly before someone has passed away.
It may be that a terminal illness causes a person to reconsider who should receive their hard-earned assets, however it’s an unfortunate reality that such circumstances can leave a person vulnerable to undue influence, causing them to make gifts they would not have made without such pressures.”
Anyone with concerns over gifts or wills made by loved ones or who wants to find out more about the grounds available to challenge a will can contact Katherine Ellis at email@example.com and 0121 647 5419.