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Brian Cole was a former lifeboat captain and he had one daughter, Sonya Young. Mr Cole had made a few Wills during his lifetime with Mrs Young as the main beneficiary of his 2008 Will. In his 2012 Will, Mr Cole’s then partner was favoured over Mrs Young. In Mr Cole’s 2013 Will, Mrs Young and his partner were due to receive £5,000 each upon his demise with the majority of his wealth being left to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (“RNLI”).

Mr Cole committed suicide in 2013 and 25 days after he had signed his 2013 Will. Understandably, Mrs Young argued that her father did not have the capacity that was required when he made his final Will. Mrs Young decided to leave her job so that she could focus her efforts on challenging the validity of her father’s latest Will.

The judge concluded that Mr Cole did have testamentary capacity, thus he was aware of what he was doing when he altered his Will. The latest Will was deemed to be valid, which favoured the RNLI. Mr Cole left the RNLI over £260,000.

This case serves as a reminder that sufficient evidence is required in order to establish that an individual does not have testamentary capacity, as the judge was of the view that Mr Cole was of sound mind. Mr Cole had provided reasoning as to why he altered his Will in the manner that he did and in his 2012 Will, Mrs Young was not the main beneficiary. It is, therefore, important that any substantial changes to a Will are adequately documented so that such records can be relied upon should any dispute arise. Legal professionals and testators must adhere to this; otherwise an individual’s assets may not be distributed in accordance with their wishes.  Mr Cole had detailed that the change in his Will was due to a disagreement with his daughter. The outcome may have been different if it was not known why the Will had been changed.

By the end of the hearing, Mrs Young did not have all of the monies that her father had left the RNLI in his Will. The judge was able to impose a charging order on Mrs Young’s property, which was requested by the solicitors that were acting for the RNLI. Due to the amount that the RNLI were left by Mr Cole in his Will, Mrs Young’s family home may have to be sold so that she can pay all of the monies that are due to the charity. In addition to this, Mrs Young was ordered to pay legal costs. This case highlights how costly in can be to contest a Will. Mrs Young had declined a pre-trial settlement offer. This case, therefore, also demonstrates the importance of considering such offers, as acceptance can save costs and time since Mrs Young had been challenging the Will since 2015.  

For more information about disputing a Will, please contact Tracey Leathley: 0113 368 7810 or [email protected]