High Court rules in favour of siblings in dispute over mother’s contested DIY will

The High Court in Bristol has ruled in favour of siblings Henrietta Ingram and Tom Whitfield in a dispute over their late mother’s DIY will, which left them with nothing.

Clarke Willmott represented the siblings in contesting the purported last will of Joanna Abraham, executed in 2019. Simon Abraham, Joanna’s brother, drafted the new will using an online template, claiming to act on her instructions. The will, leaving the entire estate to him and a valuable book collection to his wife, excluded Henrietta and Tom.

Judge Berkley of the High Court determined that the 2019 will did not fulfil Joanna Abraham’s intentions, which were to secure the benefit of her estate for her children. The judge suggested that a lawyer would have recognized the intention for the creation of a discretionary trust in favour of Tom and Henrietta, with Simon as the trustee. Clarke Willmott’s Senior Associate Emma Ironside and Trainee Solicitor Ellie Bond represented the claimants. Emma said:

“Joanna executed a will splitting her estate between her two children in 2008.

The siblings had always thought they would inherit her entire estate based on what she had told them throughout her life. However, in 2019, Joanna’s brother, Simon, drafted a new will for her in which her estate was left entirely to Simon and her book collection was left to his wife. Joanna executed the 2019 will in her home and this was witnessed.

Henrietta and Tom challenged the new will on the grounds of lack of knowledge and approval. They produced significant evidence to show that the circumstances surrounding the execution of the new will were suspicious, including voice recordings and social media messages.

The children accepted the signature on the 2019 will was Joanna’s, but challenged the initials at the foot of each page which they argued was in stark contrast to her usual way of initialling things. They argued that their mother did not understand or approve the new will and its contents.”

The judgment highlighted that Joanna did not understand the effect of the 2019 Will, and Simon Abraham contributed to this misunderstanding. In his defence, Simon claimed Joanna gave clear instructions due to a falling out with her children. However, inconsistencies in his evidence and failure to disclose relevant communications damaged his credibility.

Emma Ironside emphasized the importance of seeking specialist legal advice when challenging a Will or suspecting dubious circumstances surrounding its execution. The court’s decision underscored the significance of understanding and executing the testator’s true intentions.

Read full case here.

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