“A fight to the Death” between siblings over their late mother’s £800,000 estate
Shirley Guymer passed away in 2016 at the age of 78. She died a widow, her husband having passed away two years prior, and she had no children.
After her husband’s death in 2014, Shirley prepared a new Will. In this Will 5% of her £800,000 estate was to be distributed to Rowan’s hospice who had cared for her husband with the remainder, split equally between her 11 nieces and nephews.
Two months prior to her death, in 2016, Shirley prepared a new Will leaving 50% of her property (worth around £650,000) to her brother Terry and the other 50% to Terry’s children Andrew and Malcolm. The remainder of her estate (including £180,000 in cash) was to be split equally between all of Shirley’s siblings.
Shirley’s sister Diane, and her niece Karen, challenged the Will on the grounds that Shirley did not have the requisite mental capacity to execute the 2016 Will. They also claimed that Shirley had been unduly influence by Terry and his sons into changing the contents of her Will.
The dispute between the family took 4 years to get to trial and was listed for an 8 day hearing. The judge dubbed the family feud “a fight to the death”.
Solicitors acting on behalf of Diane and Karen argued that Shirley “lacked knowledge of the 2016 will, she lacked capacity to make it in the first place.” It was also argued that Terry and his sons had coerced Shirley into signing the Will whilst she was severely ill with cancer. It was heard that Shirley had signed the 2016 Will in the waiting room of a doctors surgery.
Representatives for Terry, Malcolm and Andrew claimed that Shirley had changed her Will as her property had previously belonged to Terry. They sought to argue that Shirley had wanted to ensure that the property was returned to Terry on her death.
The argument raised by Terry and his sons was disputed by the rest of Shirley’s family. The Court had heard that members of Shirley’s family had been told by her on a number of occasions that she did not want Terry to have her land and that she always wanted her estate to be split equally between her nieces and nephews.
Following the 8 day hearing Terry and his sons conceded their argument and agreed that the 2016 Will was not valid. It was held that the Will made in 2014 was to stand so Shirley’s estate is to be split 95% between her 11 nieces and nephews with the remaining 5% going to the Rowans hospice.
It is important to obtain legal advice as early as possible to ensure you are fully informed of your options. If you would like to speak to someone in our Dispute Resolution Team or Wills and Estate Planning Team please contact: 01622 698000.