Last week, the High Court in London made a decision following a lengthy seven day trial, to uphold the Will of Mrs Helen Blofield, who died in October 2008.
Mr Blofield had made her Will in November 2006, leaving everything to her former neighbour, paving contractor Lionel Cranfield. Mrs Blofield's granddaughter Leigh Cowderoy, challenged the Will as invalid, accusing Mr Cranfield of 'coercing' his friend Mrs Blofield into making a Will in his favour.
Mrs Blofield did not have a very strong relationship with her granddaughter and it was therefore not irrational for her to have cut her out of the Will. The times when Mrs Cowderoy saw her grandmother were described as very few and far between. Mrs Cowderoy’s father, the deceased’s son, had died in 2006, and had been a 'chronic alcoholic' who spent many of his days lying on his mother's sofa. But the judge said that Mrs Blofield nevertheless loved him very dearly and was very sad at his unfortunate death. She was also considerably put out when Mrs Cowderoy inherited her father's money.
The High Court ruled vindicated Mr Cranfield by ruling that Mrs Blofield had deliberately cut her granddaughter out of her £150,000 estate, and that the Will was valid, meaning he was entitled to inherit everything.
Mr Justice Morgan said Mrs Blofield, although frail, and in her 80s, 'knew what she was doing' when she made Mr Cranfield her heir, and there was 'no arguable case' that he had unduly influenced her into changing her Will.
The Court highlighted that people have a freedom of choice and freewill to make a Will in whatever terms they chose. Providing that they do not then disinherit someone who was financially dependant upon them, the Court’s are reluctant to intervene.
Mrs Blofield’s choice was influenced by her belief, or at any rate her hope, that if she made a Will in favour of Mr Cranfield and told him that she had done so, that would help her because he would be more likely to continue to visit her and care for her. Indeed, evidence was produced at the trial to show that he did provide help and support to her in the years leading up to her death.
This case highlights the importance of having specialist legal representation in a disputed Wills case. Undue Influence claims are notoriously difficult to win, and as a result of Mrs Cowderoy taking her case to trial, she is now likely to end up paying a very large legal bill consisting of her own legal costs, and Mr Cranfield’s legal costs.
If you think you may need to challenge a person’s Will, or if you need assistance in defending a challenge against a Will, then contact our specialist litigation team who deal with inheritance disputes on 01616 966 229. If you are of limited financial means, you may even be entitled to Legal Aid, and we can advise you of this quickly over the phone.