Is Grief Enough to Sustain a Challenge to a Will?

When a man's wife died, his decision to execute a new will less than a month later led to a legal challenge.

Two earlier wills had made his wife his principal beneficiary and provided that, should she predecease him, his estate would go to her family. The new will left his estate to his own family.

The new will was contested by his late wife's relatives, who claimed that the man had suffered a 'severe bereavement reaction', which meant that, at the time the new will was executed, he was not mentally fit to make a will.

A year after his wife's death, the man was diagnosed as suffering from depression, but medical experts were agreed that there was no mental instability of a more severe nature and that his condition at the time the new will was drawn up could be described as showing a normal grief reaction.

Witnesses for the claimants gave evidence arguing that he was incapable of making rational decisions at the time the will was made, but the High Court concluded that his behaviour was not indicative that the balance of his mind was disturbed but was normal for a person suffering from grief.

The Court refused to accept the challenge to the will, considering that normal grief could not be considered as creating a lack of mental capacity. It dismissed the claim, ordering the claimants to pay the entire costs of the action so that the value of the estate was not affected.

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