The High Court has rejected a will executed by a man suffering from delusions after his solicitors failed to do adequate medical checks. Master Clark ruled in Boast v Ballardi & Ors that Edward Smith’s will from 2013 should effectively be replaced by one from seven years earlier after a legal challenge from his nephew.
The claimant, Gavin Boast, was the sole executor and sole beneficiary under the 2006 will for an estate which included a cottage in Suffolk and estimated savings of £140,000.
But the 2013 will stipulated that Boast should receive £15,000 with the residuary estate left on trust for his sisters. Smith died in 2016, aged 97.
The court heard that Smith had a close relationship with his nephew until around 2012, when his GP noted that he had ‘increasingly confused, paranoid ideas… lucid but disorientated in time and space’, with fixed ideas about people preventing him having tablets.
Around this time, Smith contacted Jonathan Margarson of Suffolk firm Cross Ram & Co to say he wanted to cancel the enduring powers of attorney in favour of his nephew and make a new will benefitting his sisters.
The court heard that the solicitor was aware that Smith had been diagnosed with dementia and wrote to his GP seeking advice. The doctor responded that he did not believe he would ever regain testamentary capacity.
A few months later, Smith again wrote to his solicitors suggesting that ‘I do not appear to be a free person and I don’t know why?’ He later suggested that Roast’s partner might run away with all his assets.
Margarson expressed concern about Smith’s mental state but seemed to have accepted his client’s assurances that he was mentally capable, despite what the master said was ‘clear evidence’ that his paranoid delusions were getting worse.
The master added: ‘Mr Margarson, having become aware of the deceased’s paranoid delusions, did not investigate whether they were capable of affecting his testamentary decisions, either by asking further questions, or by instructing a qualified medical practitioner to assess this. Indeed, although Mr Margarson seems to have considered that the deceased should be assessed by a qualified medical practitioner before making the 2013 will, he did not ensure this was done.’