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Siblings caught up in Will dispute over mother’s £400,000 estate

The High Court has been asked to rule whether a woman who disinherited her daughter was mentally unfit at the time the Will was drafted.

Mrs Jean Clitheroe, who was 76 years old when she passed away in 2017, left almost her entire estate, valued at around £400,000, to her son, John.

Mrs Clitheroe only left a diamond and garnet ring to her daughter, Sue Bond, claiming that she was a “shopaholic” who would just “fritter away” the money.

Initially, a court overturned Mrs Clitheroe’s Will, claiming that she had been suffering from an affective disorder at the time of creating the Will, which included a complex grief reaction, ‘insane delusions’ and persisting depression

However, John Clitheroe has now mounted a legal challenge to the judge’s decision and has asked the High Court to overturn the previous ruling.

John Clitheroe’s lawyers are arguing that the judge who heard the case initially had relied on 150 year old legislation, known as ‘Banks v Goodfellow,’ They claim this case law has been superseded by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which uses different criteria to assess the validity of a Will.

Mr Clitheroe also presented evidence from medical experts which allegedly indicates there was nothing in Mrs Clitheroe’s medical notes to suggest she had at any time suffered a cognitive impairment.

However, Mrs Bond’s lawyers have argued that Mrs Clitheroe had been suffering “deeply and profoundly” from the death of her other daughter, Debs, “from which she never recovered”.

As a result, they claim that Mrs Clitheroe “began to form false, baseless, irrational and delusional ideas about Sue, and her mind had been poisoned against her, such that in consequence Jean cut Sue out of her Will”.

High Court Judge, Mrs Justice Falk, has expressed concerns about the cost of the litigation, as well as the impact of the dispute on the family. As a result, she has postponed the appeal for three months to give both parties an “opportunity to reflect on their positions and determine whether agreement can be reached without the expense of any further hearing”.

Lorraine Walker, a Solicitor with Mander Hadley, who specialises in litigation and dispute resolution, said: “The death of a relative or close friend is always an emotional time and disputes which arise over the contents of a Will can be particularly distressing.

“Under English law, a person has a basic right to freedom of ‘testamentary disposition’ which means that generally they can leave their estate to whomever the wish.

“However, there are some important caveats to this – if a person has ‘protected status’ meaning they were financially dependent upon the deceased, or if it is suspected that when the person made the Will they were mentally incapacitated or put under duress – there are grounds for contesting the Will.

“If you believe you have grounds to contest a Will, it is important to take prompt action.”

Our contentious probate solicitors will be able to provide honest, impartial advice and, if there are grounds, we can help you formally challenge a Will. For more advice on matters relating to Will disputes, please contact us.

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