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Dementia is now the biggest killer - could this lead to more invalid Wills?

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New figures this week, published by the Office of National Statistics, have shown that dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales. According to the figures, more than 61,000 people last year died from the disease, being 11.6% of all recorded deaths.

The ONS have said that this increase is likely to be due to a combination of the fact that people are now living longer, together with advances in medical care meaning that the disease is now diagnosed more accurately, and frequently. A large proportion of the dementia related deaths were women, with 41,283 having died, as opposed to 20,403 men.

It is a concern to myself as a solicitor who deals with inheritance disputes, that there are more reported deaths connected to dementia. It may follow that more people suffering from the disease, are open to persuasion to change their Wills, at a time when they do not have mental capacity to do so.

For a Will to be valid, the person making it must have sufficient mental capacity to make it. The test for capacity goes back to the old case of Banks v Goodfellow [QBD 1870] which confirmed that in order to make a valid Will, a person must satisfy the following test:

  1. They must understand that they are making a Will; and
  2. They must be aware of the extent of their assets; and
  3. They must be aware of those people that they should morally provide for, even if they chose to disinherit that person; and
  4. That they must not be suffering from any mental condition that has adversely effected their decisions in the Will.

If someone fails this test, and you can provide evidence to prove this, then the Will could be found to be invalid by the court, and that person’s estate will then pass under either any previous valid Will, or the rules of intestacy.

If you wish to bring a claim against someone’s estate, it is important that you seek specialist legal advice as early as possible. 

For a fixed fee of £150, you can have a 30 minute appointment with myself, either on the telephone, or face to face, depending on your preference. We will take some details from you before the appointment, and I will then discuss your case with you, and what your options are. If your case is something that we can then help you further with, we can then discuss your funding options with you. 

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