26 May 2022 by Grace Gannon

£100m Will dispute

Case Law update: Reeves v Drew and ors [2022]

On 12 May 2022, Louise Reeves (‘Louise’) applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the High Court’s decision in February 2022 to hold her late father’s Will invalid.

Background

Kevin Patrick Reeves (‘Kevin’) was an extraordinary man who, during his life, built a fortune of almost £100 million from nothing.

He died unexpectedly on 3 February 2019 at the age of 71.

Kevin’s last Will, dated 7 January 2014 (‘the 2014 Will’), left 80% of his £100 million estate to his daughter, Louise and 20% to his other daughter, Lisa Murray (‘Lisa’).

This was in stark contrast to Kevin’s previous will (‘the 2012 Will’), which split 80% of his estate between his 3 children, Louise, Lisa and Simon Frain (‘Simon’), with 20% going to his 2 grandchildren.

The case went to trial in February 2022 following an application by Louise for the Court to confirm the 2014 Will was valid.

The issues for the Court to decide were whether Kevin knew and approved the contents of the 2014 Will, and whether he had signed the 2014 Will as the result of undue influence.

Judgment

The High Court found that Mr Curnock, the solicitor who had prepared the 2014 Will, had acted ‘recklessly, and quite possibly dishonestly’ in drafting the 2014 Will and there was nothing in the evidence to say why Kevin had decided to make the drastic change in testamentary intentions between the 2012 and 2014 Will.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Michael Green commented on the ‘number of witnesses said to be lying on oath’.

Louise claimed she had no prior relationship with Mr Curnock. However, full disclosure of evidence revealed there were mobile phone records, email chains, solicitor’s notebooks, and property transactions, which proved the contrary.

Conclusion

Louise had failed to prove Kevin knew and approved of the contents of the 2014 Will, and the Court dismissed her claim. Accordingly, the 2012 Will took effect as Kevin’s final Will.

We will provide an update on the outcome of Louise’s permission to appeal in due course.

Our Disputed Wills and Trusts team are able to assist if you would like to seek advice on challenging a Will. If you are thinking of making a Will, please can contact our Wealth and Estate Planning team.

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