Island knowledge, national expertise

High Court Declares 'Illiterate' Business Tycoon's £100 Million Will Invalid

Your assets are your own and, when making your will, you have complete freedom to leave them to whomever you choose. As a case concerning a business tycoon's £100 million estate showed, however, a will signed without the testator having knowledge and approval of its contents is not worth the paper it is written on.

The businessman's final will bequeathed 80 per cent of his residuary estate to his youngest daughter. One of his sons and two of his grandchildren, who were major beneficiaries under an earlier will, were all but disinherited. In challenging the final will, the son argued that it did not represent his father's true wishes.

Ruling on the matter, the High Court rejected claims that the daughter had brought undue influence to bear upon her father. It ruled, however, that his final will was invalid because he neither knew nor approved of its contents.

The Court found that, despite his exceptional business acumen and head for figures, the businessman was quite far along the spectrum towards total illiteracy. He may have recognised simple words, but complicated sentences in the final will would have appeared as a jumble to him. There was no evidence that he read the document before signing it.

No allegations of fraud or dishonesty had been made against the daughter and all the correct formalities had been observed in making the will. There were, however, circumstances – not least the apparent dramatic shift in the businessman's intentions represented by the final will – that excited the Court's vigilance.

The Court found on the evidence that the businessman was unaware that his final will – which was executed less than two years after its predecessor – radically changed the beneficiaries of his estate. It was not a valid testamentary document and the Court pronounced in favour of the earlier will.

  • "Thank you for the wonderful advice your firm gave us. We will have no hesitation in contacting you should we need any help in the future."

    — Client, Isle of Wight

  • "Thank-you again - you really have been amazing and so helpful and I’m extremely grateful."

    — Client

  • "Parisa - Thank you so much for all that you have done for me, your kindness and patience have made my claim so much easier and explaining everything to me has helped so much. Thank you again."

    — Client, Isle of Wight

  • "Thank you for the wonderful advice Claudia gave us. We will have no hesitation in contacting you should we need any help in the future."

    — Client

  • "The service I received was second to none. I will of course happily recommend you to others."

    — Client

  • "Thank you to Parisa, who phoned me this morning. She was absolutely brilliant, provided crystal clear advice and put my mind at rest. For months I've wondered whether or not I should consult a solicitor and I now feel that I can move forward."

    — Client

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.