The will was challenged for want of testamentary capacity. The testator was 89 years old, and the will was made within a week of the death of his wife of 65 years and without the solicitor having taken any proper steps to satisfy himself as to the testator’s testamentary capacity.
Held: The will failed. When a solicitor is instructed to prepare a will for an aged testator, or for one who has been seriously ill, he should arrange for a medical practitioner first to satisfy himself as to the capacity and understanding of the testator, and make a contemporaneous record of his examination and findings. Though the terms of the will were rational, and the result of its dispositions might be fair, nevertheless, the burden on the objectors of establishing lack of capacity had been met: ‘the element of suspicion arising from the circumstances, although by no means overpowering, is sufficient to call for affirmative proof of knowledge and approval, beyond that constituted by the due execution of a rational will.’
 EWHC 408 (Ch),  1 WLR 2020,  WTLR 623
England and Wales
Cited – Kenward v Adams ChD 29-Nov-1975
The court set out certain precautions which might be taken by a solicitor drawing up a will for an aged testator or one who has been seriously ill. One such precaution was that if there was an earlier will it should be examined and any proposed . .
Cited – In re Simpson Deceased; Schaniel and Another v Simpson and Others ChD 1977
Templeman J reminded solicitors of their duty to ensure the satisfactory execution of a will: ‘In the case of an aged testator or a testator who has suffered a serious illness, there is one golden rule which should always be observed, however . .
Cited – Re Moss, Larke v Nugus CA 1979
Executors To Give Information Avoiding Expense
(Decided in approximately 1979) The signature of the testatrix, an elderly woman, was distinctly wobbly, the will contained a gift, as it was put by the trial judge, ‘in favour of persons on whom the testatrix is dependent’, and the executor, who . .
Cited – Scammell and Another v Farmer ChD 22-May-2008
A challenge was made to will for the alleged lack of capacity of the testatrix who was said to have Alzheimers. The executrix was said to have destroyed hidden evidence.
Held: The 2005 Act had restated the law on capacity in Banks, but had . .
Cited – Hoff and others v Atherton CA 19-Nov-2004
Appeals were made against pronouncements for the validity of a will and against the validity of an earlier will. The solicitor drawing the will was to receive a benefit, and had requested an independent solicitor to see the testatrix and ensure that . .
Cited – Banks v Goodfellow QBD 6-Jul-1870
Test for Capacity to Execute Will
The testator suffered from delusions, but not so badly or in such a way as was found to affect his capacity or to influence his testamentary disposition. The judge had given the following direction: ‘The question is whether . . the testator was . .
Cited – Cattermole v Prisk 2006
Banks v Goodfellow was the appropriate starting and finishing point for consideration of mental capacity to make a will. . .
Cited – Judy Ledger v Wootton and Another ChD 2-Oct-2007
A grant of probate was challenged, the claimant stating that, at the time of the will, the deceased had lacked testamentary capacity.
Held: The deceased had a history of mental health difficulties. It was for the person proposing a will to . .
Cited – Charles Harwood v Maria Baker PC 1840
The Board emphasised the importance that the Court of Probate should be satisfied that a testatrix had the necessary capacity when she executed the will if the evidence showed that she had lost capacity shortly afterwards. The infirmity of the . .
Cited – Fuller v Strum CA 7-Dec-2001
The appellant challenged a finding that only part of a will was valid. The part made a gift to his son, ‘albeit very grudgingly’, saying ‘I hate him like poison, that Irish bastard.’
Held: The onus on the propounder of a will to show that it . .
Cited – Buckenham v Dickinson ChD 1992
The testator was very old, partially blind and deaf. A next door neighbour who had great advantage of long experience in old peoples’ homes, indicated that the testator was of such poor sight and hearing that he was virtually cut off from everything . .
Cited – Wharton v Bancroft and Others ChD 8-Dec-2011
Mr Wharton anticipated his imminent death. He made a will leaving everything to his long time partner in anticipation of their marriage, married her and died a few days later. The will made no provision for his first wife or their now adult . .
Cited – Ram and Another v Chauhan and Another Misc 19-Jul-2017
Leeds County Court – Challenge to validity of will – witnesses not present – lack of capacity – undue influence . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Wills and Probate
Updated: 18 December 2021; Ref: scu.402542