Inheritance Tax  

Wills declared invalid in court over mental health concerns

Wills declared invalid in court over mental health concerns

A daughter has been awarded half of her mother’s £325,000 estate after a lengthy court battle to have her two wills ruled invalid due to concerns about her mental capacity.

A High Court judge ruled Jean Clitheroe had died intestate due to suffering from “a complex grief reaction” that affected her mental capacity. 

As a result, her daughter Susan Bond, who was originally cut out of both wills, will now inherit half of the £325,000 estate, alongside her brother John Clitheroe.

The case, which was described as a “bitter family dispute” between Ms Bond and her brother, centred on whether their mother had the mental capacity to make each of her two wills or whether either or both wills resulted from fraudulent slander. 

Ms Clitheroe passed away in 2017 and left her entire estate to her son as she said her daughter was “a shopaholic and would just fritter it away”.

The second will also made wider allegations about theft from the property of Debra, another of Ms Clitheroe’s daughters who had passed away previously.

While Mr Clitheroe said both wills were valid, Ms Bond argued the allegations were false as her mother had a complex grief reaction to her sister’s death which made her suffer from “insane delusions” and “poisoned her mind” against Ms Bond.

Judge Linwood found there was enough evidence showing Ms Clitheroe had suffered from “affective grief disorder” which included complex grief reaction and persisting depression that “impaired her testamentary capacity”.

He also found that Ms Bond had no noteworthy shopping habits.

Therefore Judge Linwood decided neither will could be admitted to probate and Ms Clitheroe was ruled to have died intestate.

Scott Gallacher, chartered financial planner at Rowley Turton, said the case was unusual as it is often difficult to have a will ruled invalid if people are able to get the basics right in the first place.

He added: "That said, I have seen numerous issues with wills over the years. Sometimes these are relatively small typos but I have seen some potential serious consequences due to the will not delivering the testators wishes and we have had to help several clients obtain new wills.

"More often that not the errors are a result of people obtaining a cheap will and the solicitor merely following the clients instructions rather than spending the time with the client to fully understand what they are trying to achieve.

"People should be willing to invest the time and money to have a professional will drawn up that delivers their wishes and hopefully avoid any family fall outs in the future."

Nicola Bushby, a will, trust and estate disputes partner at Irwin Mitchell, said the case highlighted how will disputes can form where mental capacity is a concern and has urged people to apply a ‘golden rule’ to avoid these situations.

Ms Bushby said: “After years of irrational and upsetting behaviour from her mother, Susan must feel relieved to have her side of the story recognised with this judgment. However, all of this could’ve been avoided if the golden rule had been applied.