Bellingham Will dispute underlines need to seek early legal advice

News Article

Losing a loved one is devastating in itself, but the pain and upset of subsequent disputes over the validity of the Will they have left can cause significant delay in their estate being distributed, the incurring of sizeable legal fees and irreparable divisions within a family.

The main grounds on which the validity of a Will can be challenged are:

  • Lack of due execution
  • Lack of mental capacity or insane delusion
  • Undue influence or duress
  • Lack of knowledge and approval
  • Fraud or forgery

It is not unusual to see a Will being challenged on a number of the above grounds.

Recently, the sons of the late actress, Lynda Bellingham, announced that they were considering contesting her Will.

Ms Bellingham, who died in 2014 after battling colon cancer, left a Will which named her third husband, Michael Pattemore, as the sole beneficiary.

Since her death, an increasingly bitter dispute over her estate has raged, with her two sons claiming that their mother had left everything to their step-father, believing that in turn he would provide for them. To date they claim they have received nothing apart from £750 in gifts and they further allege that they have now been thrown out of the family home.

Concerns have also been raised about Ms Bellingham’s state of mind when she made her Will, with her sons pointing to the fact that she was heavily medicated at the time and had rushed the Will making process because she was facing emergency surgery.

Lee McClellan, a Partner with Palmers and a specialist in contested Wills said: “If you are a potential claimant and you feel that a Will does not properly reflect the intended wishes of a loved one, it is critical that you seek immediate legal advice.

“Whilst not all claims challenging a Will or against an estate have strict time limits, some claims must be brought within 6 months of the date on which the Grant of Representation issues and the Court can prevent any claim from proceeding if they consider there has been an unreasonable delay in pursuing the same.”

Lee added: “Ideally Will making should not be left until a person is in very poor physical or mental health, as this greatly increases the chances of a challenge to the validity of the Will.

Where this is unavoidable, or you know that the Will is likely to be challenged after death, employing a specialist firm of solicitors, rather than attempting a do-it-yourself Will, will also help to reduce the chances of a successful challenge by ensuring that there is professional evidence available regarding issues such as mental capacity, knowledge and approval, due execution etc.”

For more information about Palmers Wills, Probate and Estate Administration services including advice on contested Wills, please contact us.