Danger of last-minute arrangements concerning Wills

Aaron Spencer

Partner & Head of Private Client

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May 14, 2020

Categories Wills and Inheritance

Furley Page archive: First published Dec 2011

The deathbed Will of millionaire Kent businessman George Wharton was disputed by his three daughters, who accused their stepmother Mrs Maureen Wharton of pressurising their father into leaving them nothing from his £4m estate. Mr Wharton married his partner of 32 years in 2008, after he was diagnosed terminally ill. He died three days later. Furley Page was acting on behalf of Mrs Wharton.

The disputed Will was the subject of proceedings before Mr Justice Norris at the High Court. In a complex case, more than 40 witnesses gave evidence. The judge said the matter involved “a family at war with itself”. He upheld the validity of the Will and dismissed the claim made by the daughters.

Peter Hawkes, Senior Partner and head of dispute resolution at Furley Page, said the Will had been challenged on the grounds of lack of knowledge and approval and undue influence. The judge had to consider whether this was the last true Will of a free and capable person.

Mr Justice Norris said there was no evidence to back up the allegations made by the daughters about Mrs Wharton unduly influencing George Wharton’s decision to prepare the Will. The judge said he was satisfied that the will-making process resulted in a document containing the last true wishes of a free and competent testator.

Peter Hawkes said the case underlines the importance of taking specialist legal advice at an early stage when preparing a Will, or if you think you may need to challenge a person’s Will, or if someone is trying to challenge your own inheritance under a Will.

For further information about Wills and succession planning, contact Aaron Spencer, Partner and Head of Private Client on 01227 763939.

Blog first published Dec 2011