Will dispute case: Nutt v Nutt

In a recent will dispute case, the High Court in London rejected a four-pronged attack on the validity of a will.

The case of Nutt v Nutt [2018] EWHC 851 (Ch) involved the estate of Lily Rose Nutt who died on 25th February 2013, aged 88.

Lily Nutt was a widow with three adult children at the date of her death.

Mrs Nutt’s two older children, Christopher Nutt and Vivienne Mahoney, commenced a claim to prove Mrs Nutt’s 26th May 2005 will. Colin Nutt (her youngest son) defended the claim and counterclaimed seeking to prove a later will dated 7 April 2010.

In the 2005 will, the estate was split between the three children equally. In the 2010 will, the house, which was the main asset in the estate and worth £350,000, was left to Colin Nutt with the residuary estate being split between the three siblings

Colin Nutt had lived with Mrs Nutt for many years. After a family fall out, Colin lost touch with Mrs Nutt until about 2003 when they got close again. In 2004, Mrs Nutt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  In 2007, she had a heart attack and then in 2008 she was diagnosed with Paget’s disease, a bone weakening condition.

It was common ground that in the last decade of Mrs Nutt’s life, she received a lot of care and support from her family. Colin contended that he provided most of this support. This is disputed by Christopher and Vivienne who say that they provided just as much support to their mother and that there was no reason for her to make greater provision for Colin than for them.

Christopher and Vivienne relied upon four grounds as part of their will dispute claim, and the issues in the case were as follows:

  • Was the 2010 will validly executed by Lily?
  • Did Lily have the requisite mental capacity to execute the 2010 will?
  • If she did have the requisite mental capacity, did Lily know of and approve of the contents of the 2010 will?
  • Was the execution of the 2010 was procured by undue influence?

The Judge decided that the 2010 will had been properly executed by Lily. Evidence was provided by Steven Jones (Colin’s old school friend) and Valerie Jones, who had both witnessed Lily’s execution of the 2010 will.

The Judge decided that there was no evidence to suggest lack of testamentary capacity when she made the 2010 will. Lily had discussed her intention to leave Colin the house at great length with various friends.

Similarly, the Judge found no evidence to suggest undue influence. Christopher and Vivienne made a comprehensive attack on Colin’s character in court alleging that Colin had a dominating and domineering personality, but the court rejected these allegations and instead found that Colin was “affectionate and attentive” towards his mother.

In will validity cases, the court will focus on whether the will is valid and not whether the will is unjustified or unfair.

If you are considering contesting a will or you would like advice regarding a contentious probate dispute, contact our specialist contentious probate solicitors on 01902 424927 for an initial free consultation. Alternatively, you can e-mail us at contentiousprobate@georgegreen.co.uk providing a brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss with us, along with your contact details.