17 March 2014 by Michael Culver

A Fruitless Endeavor

An interesting decision was reached in the recent case of Vegetarian Society & Another v Scott [2013] EWHC 4097 (Ch). The deceased, a schizophrenic man, left the majority of his estate, worth over £1 million, to the Vegetarian Society and another charity, despite not being a vegetarian.

The deceased died in late 2007 at the age of 65. During his lifetime he had made three wills leaving significant shares of his estate to his nephews. However, within his last will, made just over a year before he died, he left £5,000 between them.

The Will was challenged on grounds of a lack of capacity to make a will. Strangely, there was no dispute that the deceased had a disorder of the mind when he made his will.  The medical experts in this case both agreed that he was schizophrenic and had suffered from ‘logical thought disorder’ for many years.

It was also found that for most of his life he lived with his mother and regularly entered and left the house through the first floor bathroom window – not normal behaviour, by any means.

Other relevant examples of the deceased’s strange behaviour included the fact that he regularly dressed like a tramp and washed himself outdoors in cold water. He had no fridge and cooked on a camping stove. He talked to himself and he kept a kind of diary in which he made bizarre entries.

The main question for the court was whether these symptoms indicated that he could not make a will, especially in view of the fact that he was never a vegetarian and had no links with the charities to which he left his estate.

There was evidence that the deceased believed his nephews had been stealing from him and his mother and ultimately it was found that the deceased did have capacity. In his judgement, Judge Barker found that:

The plain fact in this case is that when making his 2006 will Mr McKeen did not feel the bond of natural love and affection with his blood family that usually exists…accordingly, he consciously decided to leave his estate elsewhere. That is a decision which the law respects and upholds.”

Challenging a will can be a daunting and costly experience and it is essential to instruct a specialist lawyer with a wealth of experience in such matters. 

If you wish to challenge a will, or if you are an executor or beneficiary of a will that is being challenged please contact us to arrange an appointment. 

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