I recently acted in a fascinating case involving the disputed Will of a distinguished City of London solicitor. My client, an elderly Portuguese lady, was the solicitor’s cleaner who latterly became his carer when he got extremely ill.
The solicitor had poor family relationships. He had fallen out with his brothers and other family members. My client did everything for him far beyond the call of duty at very low wages. Before he died he passed my client a sealed envelope and told her to open it after his death, adding that she should never trust his brothers. After his death the family was told that he had made no Will. They did not know about the envelope which my client opened after his death (as he had directed) to find a photocopy of a Will executed by the deceased, almost entirely in my client’s favour.
Before they knew this the brothers and their solicitor insisted that a “thorough search” of the deceased’s property and affairs had been carried out but still there was no Will. We then revealed the existence of a copy Will to them and their solicitor and said they should look harder and the serious consequences of failing to do so. 3 weeks later the original Will was found!
But the battle was far from over. The brothers then claimed the Will was invalid because it had been obtained by my client (a tiny elderly lady) by duress or undue influence upon the deceased. They also alleged all the other standard objections to validity of a will – lack of due execution, lack of mental capacity, lack of understanding of the contents of the Will. Had any of these challenges succeeded, the brothers would have inherited all the £2m Estate by intestacy.
I analysed each of the brothers’ many objections and broke them down. Expert evidence was adduced by the brothers by probably the foremost such expert in the country. But we managed to undermine the report and all the brothers’ “evidence”. I obtained a swathe of lay evidence from witnesses. I arranged full funding for the client (who had no money whatever). Each of the various allegations as to invalidity of the Will were whittled away and finally after commencement of proceedings I conducted a mediation and various negotiations all of which resulted in the collapse of the brothers’ case. My client inherited virtually the entire Estate (nearly £2 million) and all her costs were paid by the unsuccessful opponents. We then successfully applied to court to replace the brothers’ solicitor as executor (who had acted for the brothers previously) with a new candidate who was clearly objective.
A truly fascinating case whose successful outcome was a complete life changer for the client and her very impoverished family.