A High Court Judge has overturned the December 2012 will of a man who passed away leaving 95% of his estate to his landlord. David Poole suffered a serious motorcycle accident in 1985 which saw him receive over £1 million in damages. In 1993, Worcestershire County Council subsequently appointed Mr Everall as his supporting landlord, which meant that he acted as David Poole’s carer in return for a weekly payment. David Poole stayed with Mr Everall until around 2003 when he moved out to live with his partner. Mr Everall maintains that he continued to provide support to David Poole even once he had moved out.
David Poole had two brothers who received nothing under the December 2012 will despite both receiving provision under his previous wills. They did not believe that the will was correct and issued proceedings to challenge it. Mr Everall defended the will and the proceedings went to the High Court. The brothers argued that the will had not been executed in accordance with the Wills Act, that Mr Poole lacked testamentary capacity/knowledge and was subject to undue influence by Mr Everall. They asked the High Court to declare in favour of David Poole’s earlier 2012 will under which they both inherited.
On appeal, Judge Cook dismissed all the grounds apart from lack of knowledge and approval. Judge Cook was satisfied that David Poole had capacity at the time he executed the will but not that he knew and understood the terms of the will. Judge Cook instead suggested that David Poole was ‘prone to suggestibility’ and that Mr Everall had used this to isolate him from others and did not tell him that this will revoked all the gifts he made under his previous will. The December 2012 will was overturned. The Judge then declared in favour of David Poole’s earlier February 2012 will which left 60% of his estate to charity and the remaining 40% split between his two brothers.
This case serves to highlight the importance of a testator having knowledge and approval of their will. The terms of a will must be explained to the testator and they must understand the consequences of making it. If a testator is shown not to have knowledge and approval, then the will or part of it will be found to be invalid and grounds to challenge the will may arise.
When making a will, you should ensure that you fully understand the changes between the new will and any previous will. You must read the will through or have someone read it to you. You should also check that the solicitor making your will takes sufficient notes and records that you have read and understood the will, as well as a note that you considered any previous wills and your reasons for any changes in patterns. These precautionary steps will limit the chances of a challenge being made against your will once you have passed away and prevent unnecessary stress being caused for your loved ones.