High court upholds will of Philip Price despite challenge from newly discovered half-sister

A will made by 74-year-old Philip Price just three weeks before his death in 2019 has been upheld by the England and Wales High Court (EWHC), dismissing a challenge from Barbara Watts, a woman who discovered after his death that she was his half-sister.

Price, who lived his entire life in Powys, Wales, owned a house and 74 acres of pasture where he kept various horses. At his death in January 2019, his estate was valued at GBP808,000.

In December 2018, despite suffering from several severe illnesses and recent hospitalisation for pneumonia and suspected sepsis, Price executed a handwritten will prepared by Sian Morris, an experienced senior solicitor. The will left Price’s entire estate to Vanessa Davies, a close friend of 25 years with whom he shared a bungalow, and appointed one of Price’s cousins as executor and trustee.

Barbara Watts challenged the will, claiming Price lacked testamentary capacity when he signed it or was unaware of its contents. If successful, Watts stood to inherit the estate. Vanessa Davies had to prove the will’s validity in court.

Both sides presented psychiatric expert testimony due to the absence of medical records indicating continuous delirium after a recorded episode on December 6th. Watts’ expert acknowledged no medical evidence of ongoing delirium but suggested it was possible on December 14th, potentially affecting Price’s capacity. Davies’ expert conceded the possibility of mild delirium but deemed it unlikely to undermine testamentary capacity.

Additional testimony came from Sian Morris, who noted in an attendance record that Price was initially undecided about his estate’s residue. Watts argued this indicated a lack of knowledge or approval. Morris testified that she thoroughly reviewed the will with Price and had him read it before signing. She also defended not seeking medical confirmation of capacity, as she saw no signs of impairment.

Friends of Price and Vanessa Davies provided consistent testimony of Price’s mental sharpness despite his physical frailty. Judge Jarman HHJ found this testimony, along with Morris’ accurate notes on Price’s assets and beneficiaries, demonstrated Price’s testamentary capacity and understanding of the will’s contents.

The will was admitted to probate, and Barbara Watts’ objection was dismissed (Davies v Watts, 2024 EWHC 1177 Ch).

2 Responses

  1. I received your newsletter frequently. I found almost the contents of your newsletter very useful. As a solicitor, the court’s cases which bordered on disputed Wills where the court applied legal principles to solve various issues namely validity of wills, testamentary capacity of the testators, failed gifts, identification of beneficiaries, rules of intestate have contributed to my learning and assist my legal practice in the field of Probate and Wills. Thank you for your support.

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