Will validity challenge dismissed after grandfather gifts grandchildren £50 each for failing to visit him often enough

March 20, 2024

By Patrick Murphy

A High Court Judge has dismissed a claim by the grandchildren of the deceased challenging the validity of a will which left most of his £500,000 estate to his children, and just £50 to each of the claimants, after he was ‘disappointed’ and ‘hurt’ that they did not visit him enough.

Frederick Ward Snr passed away in 2020 at the age of 91, leaving a will from 2018 which gifted the majority of his assets, including a £450,000 property, to his surviving children and gifting £50 to each of his five granddaughters.

The granddaughters, who challenged the will, claimed – and it was acknowledged by the Judge, Master James Brightwell – that Frederick Snr had previously intended for them to receive a significant share of his estate, and argued that they should be entitled to a share of the estate which was the equivalent to what their father, Fred Jnr., would have received if he had been alive.

Ward, an ex-soldier, expressed his disappointment that his late son’s children did not come to visit him enough, particularly when he had been hospitalised on three occasions for a lung condition. He therefore decided to gift them just £50 each.

Undue influence

The claimants argued that the will was invalid, claiming that Frederick Snr lacked capacity at the time he changed his will, and/or that he had been unduly influenced by his surviving children, who – they claimed – persuaded him to into changing his will so they would receive what the grandchildren perceived to be ‘their’ share of the estate.

The Judge, High Court Master James Brightwell, found the will to be “entirely rational” and emphasised that the decision to split the bulk of the estate between his surviving children “can hardly be said to be a provision which no reasonable testator could make” highlighting the limited contact between Frederick Snr and the claimants in his later years as being a relevant and acceptable factor in his decision to limit his grandchildren’s entitlement to £50 each.

The Judge therefore found that there was insufficient evidence to support allegations of undue influence by Frederick Snr’s children: “the evidence does not come close to persuading me that it is more likely than not that the 2018 will was procured by the undue influence of the defendants.” Similarly, the claimants failed to provide sufficient evidence that Frederick Snr lacked capacity to make the will in 2018.

Lessons from the case

This case, which has generated media interest due to the stark contrast between the £500,000 value of the estate against the £50 gifts to each of the claimants, demonstrates the importance of claimants claiming undue influence being able to establish that the provisions of the deceased’s will were not rational; it is not enough to argue that a person pressurised the deceased into making or changing a will.

In this case, the Judge was satisfied that on the basis of the evidence provided, Frederick Snr’s decision to limit the granddaughters’ inheritance to just £50 each was rational given the fact that they had limited contact with him in his later years, and he therefore found that he had not been unduly influenced to change his will.

Accordingly, the will was declared valid and the grandchildren’s claim was dismissed, leaving them with £50 each and – most likely – a substantial costs order requiring them to pay the defendants’ costs.

Considering challenging a will?

If you have been left out of a will, or you suspect someone has been unduly influenced by someone close to them to change their will, contact one of our experts for a free, no-obligation consultation and let us explain how we can help you. Please contact us on 02920 829 100, visit our contact page, or fill out the enquiry form on this page.

Contact Our Team
Mike Raymond
Trainee Solicitor
View Profile
Nick O’Sullivan
Partner
View Profile
Patrick Murphy
Senior Associate
View Profile
Rhodri Lewis
Partner
View Profile

I have worked with Darwin Gray for a number of years and the level of service, professionalism and timely response is second to none. I would highly recommend Darwin Gray to any business.”

Becs Beslee, Dice FM Ltd

Darwin Gray have provided us with a first-class service for many years now. They really take the time to understand our business and develop relationships which results in advice and support that is contextualised and effective.”

Rebecca Cooper, ACT Training

We have worked with Darwin Gray for several years and have always found their services and advice to be first class.”

Karen Gale, Stepping Stones Group

An extremely professional and sincere company who make time for your queries and understand the need to break down certain facts and information to ensure everything is understood perfectly. I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for any type of legal advice”

Gwawr Booth, Portal Training Ltd

PSS has worked with Darwin Gray for many years. We have always received an excellent service. Prompt and professional advice and support.”

Ledia Shabani, Property Support Services UK Ltd

We have used several departments within DG recently and we have been very pleased with an effective, efficient and down to earth service. Very happy thus far and I expect that we will continue to use DG.”

Guto Bebb, Farmers’ Union of Wales

Darwin Gray offer us truly superb services. Very professional, quick and services available bilingually which is very important to us, highly recommend.”

Iwan Hywel, Mentrau Iaith Cymru

My “go to” in urgent and time sensitive cases for direction, support and advice. The team are quick to respond to calls or emails for advice and support on all matters. Always explain complex matters in a way a lay person can easily understand.”

Margot Adams, Guarding UK Ltd