Birketts succeeds in High Court challenge of Dr Jack Leonard’s Will

Birketts’ Contentious Trusts and Probate Team has secured a significant High Court victory for the Claimants in Leonard v Leonard [2024] EWHC 321 (ChD).

The trial, which was held in the High Court between 28th November 2023 and 12th December 2023, concerned the validity of the purported final Will of Dr Jack Leonard. The Claimants, who were the biological children of Dr Leonard, considered that the purported final Will was invalid on two grounds: lack of testamentary capacity and lack of knowledge and approval. The Claimants therefore argued that Dr Leonard’s previous Will, executed in 2007, should be considered his final Will and admitted to probate.

On 20th February 2024, Mrs Justice Joanna Smith DBE held that Dr Leonard did not have testamentary capacity at the time the purported final Will was executed, and he did not know and approve of the contents of this Will. Mrs Justice Joanna Smith DBE therefore pronounced in favour of the earlier Will and against the force and validity of the purported final Will. On receiving the judgment, Bernadette Baker, Partner and Head of Birketts’ Contentious Trusts and Probate Team, said:

“We are pleased to have been able to successfully represent Dr Leonard’s biological children in this claim. This judgment finally draws a line under what has been a very difficult time for the family.

With the number of contested Wills increasing in the England and Wales, this judgment provides a comprehensive summary of the court’s approach to medical expert evidence and the operation of the legal test for testamentary capacity. It also serves as a vital reminder to solicitors of the precautions they should always take when receiving instructions from elderly or vulnerable clients.”

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