Will dispute concerning prominent Law Lords' estate

The recent case of Goss-Custard v Templeman [2018] goes to show that will disputes can happen in even the most legally-minded of families.

Sydney William Baron Templeman or Lord Templeman was an eminent judge and prominent law lord, ironically famous for handing down the golden rule for establishing the capacity of a testator. This golden rule provides that where there is an aged testator, the making of a will ought to be witnessed or approved by a medical practitioner who satisfies himself of the capacity and understanding of the testator (Kenward v Adams [1975]). Whilst this rule is not determinative, following it may well help to avoid inheritance disputes in the future, particularly will disputes regarding the capacity of the deceased. Unfortunately in relation to his own will, the rule set down by Lord Templeman was not followed.

Lord Templeman had two children from his first wife, Ann and Michael. Following his second marriage to Sheila, Lord Templeman moved into Sheila’s property known as Mellowstone. Sheila also had two children from a previous marriage, Jane and Sarah.

Following Lord Templeman’s death a will dispute arose between Ann and Michael on the one hand and Jane and Sarah on the other. Jane and Sarah claimed for Lord Templeman’s last will, made in 2008, which gave Mellowstone to them and his residuary estate to Ann and Michael. Ann and Michael, on the other hand, challenged this will on the basis that Lord Templeman lacked capacity at the time it was made and claimed for his previous will made in 2001 (and amended in 2004) which left the property at Mellowstone to them.

In brief, the capacity challenge brought by Ann and Michael was premised on the basis of statements made by Lord Templeman which, they claim, go to establish that he couldn’t remember the arrangements made for his step-children under the 2001/2004 will. At the time of his last will Lord Templeman was 88 years of age and it was acknowledged by the solicitor who drafted the will that his short-term memory was not as good as it had been. Despite this observation the solicitor did not obtain medical evidence as to Lord Templeman’s capacity.

The application before the court, for summary judgement, brought by Ann and Michael was refused by the court on the basis that Jane and Sarah’s claim for the 2008 will to be admitted to probate did have a real prospects of success.

The matter is to be listed for a full trial in Autumn 2019.

Lack of capacity is one ground for contesting a will but there are many other grounds for challenging a will. If you would like to discuss challenging a will, inheritance disputes, a probate dispute or any other will dispute or contentious probate matter, please contact our contentious probate solicitors on 01902 424 927 for an initial free consultation. Alternatively, please email us at contentiousprobate@georgegreen.co.uk. In some cases, funding by way of “no win no fee” will be available.