How easy is it to challenge a will? A cheesy tale of woe

The national press carried a somewhat bizarre tale of a woman in her 20s who married a retired school lollipop man, aged 76, who claimed that she’d found his most recent will (which left the vast bulk of his £600,000 estate to her rather than his daughter by a previous marriage) in an empty Doritos packet in the attic of the family home in Harrow Road, Wembley!

The Daily Mail story tells how Marsha Henderson married ex-London bus conductor Newton Davies in 2004.  He died in 2013 aged 85 and in a will dated July 2011 left Ms Henderson £25,000 with the rest to his daughter and friend.  The so-called ‘Doritos Will’ apparently discovered by Ms Henderson reversed the contents of the earlier Will.

So, there were three different parties involved and therefore three different sides of the story.

If you can put up with the crisp puns then stay with us for a little longer …

So quite how does this corny triangle (I did warn you) relate to us all and what messages should be taken from it?

It may strike you that putting an important document such as Will into a Doritos bag in an attic is a bit eccentric, not to say suspicious, but there are eccentric people in the world.  That of itself would not be grounds for challenging the will.  The deceased’s daughter was able to convince the judge that her father had signed his last true will in July 2011 and therefore the more recent ‘Doritos Will’ was a forgery.

That contention was assisted by the fact that the new will was a simple, but rather poor quality, fake.   Its most striking defect being that the clause at the end referred to it as being “HER” last will.  As the judge pithily remarked “the deceased was a man and not a woman”.

So, was Ms Henderson cornered (I apologise!) and could this happen to anyone?

Not all challenges to a will may be as clear-cut and obvious as this one.  Any court would have to be satisfied that the will does not express or carry out the deceased’s true intention.  There has to be evidence backing this up. Although this case may have been an exception because of the amateur and obvious attempt at deception, challenges to Wills on the grounds of forgery are not uncommon – but they are notoriously expensive and difficult to prove.  For example, handwriting experts are often called upon to dispute a signature.

So how do you take the heat out of a wave of potential problems?

Having a professionally prepared will is obviously the best answer.  Crisp packets in lofts are never the best place to house such an important document as a Will!  Here at legalmatters we are very happy to discuss with clients their circumstances, needs and options in relation to Wills and estate planning.

We make the whole process nice and easy, dealing with everything over the phone or by email if that’s what suits you best.

It doesn’t need to cost a packet to make a Will!  Our costs are also fiercely competitive.

Let us guide you through the process of making a Will and ensure that your Will is a sweet (as opposed to a hot) potato!

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