I am often approached with matters which involve a deceased person having changed their will suddenly before their passing.
A claim of suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of a will can sometimes be made in such a situation. Careful consideration is needed and there must be a legitimate concern relating to the purported will.
What does it mean for a will to be signed under suspicious circumstances?
Some examples of what is a ‘suspicious circumstance’ include:
- an unexplained change of direction of the will maker (the deceased person);
- a beneficiary who is disinherited in the revised will, in the absence of any estrangement;
- a favoured beneficiary having control of the deceased person;
- the will being prepared by persons known to the beneficiaries as opposed to the deceased person; and
- the conduct of a favoured beneficiary towards a disinherited beneficiary after execution of the will.
The Court needs to be satisfied that there were circumstances surrounding the execution of the will which excite suspicion that the will does not reflect the intentions of the deceased person.
When should concerns of suspicious circumstances be raised?
Where such circumstances exist, it is important that the concerns are raised before probate is granted.
If suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of a will exist, it will be incumbent upon the person seeking probate of the will, to remove any suspicion.
What if a favoured beneficiary arranged the change of the will?
If a beneficiary has participated in the preparation of a will, that beneficiary will need to prove the honesty of the transaction.
It is possible for a Court to hold that the rest of a will is valid, save for the provision to suspect person. The Court can omit an “unrighteous” provision.
For advice in relation to suspicious circumstances surrounding the execution of a will, and whether you may have a basis for such a claim, please do not hesitate to contact me.