Why a ‘deathbed will’ may not work
A controversial ‘deathbed will’ decision has recently been overturned by the Court of Appeal.
The case concerned a challenge to a will made only hours before the testator died in hospital. His revised will made his sister (now also deceased) his sole beneficiary. The will was written out longhand by his sister’s daughter and apparently signed by his sister on his behalf when he proved to be too feeble to hold the pen. Handwriting experts had given evidence that the signature was not that of the deceased.
Despite conflicting evidence as to how the will was signed – one witness claimed it was ‘his daughter or perhaps grand-daughter who ‘steadied his hand’ – the lower court accepted that the deceased had sufficient mental capacity to create a new will and that the signature was added ‘at his direction’.
However, the Court of Appeal ruled that there was insufficient evidence that the testator had given a ‘positive communication’ to his sister that she should sign the will. It was therefore ruled to be invalid.
This case will come as a relief to families concerned that a ‘last minute’ will, made in the last few hours of the life of a relative, may suddenly materialise and undermine the previously understood position. It affirms that in such circumstances, the Court will require relatively strong evidence that the deceased was of sound mind and had genuinely changed their mind in their final hours, not just acquiesced to the wishes of others.
As always, our advice is always to make your Will with a specialist local solicitor