UK High Court & a Testators wishes

Maudlin Bascoe died in August 2015, a few days before her 97th birthday. She had emigrated to the United Kingdom from Jamaica in the 1960s and worked as a seamstress in London. Maudlin had four children and eight grandchildren. Her son Gresford Williams died in October 2004, her daughter Beverley Smith, died in March 2017. Her surviving children are her son Bradford Barnaby and daughter, Patricia Johnson.

In 1988 Maudlin instructed a solicitor Alphonso Wynter to make a new Will replacing a previous one made with another firm of solicitors; this was updated in 1992 with Maudlin leaving pecuniary legacies to members of her family, including £10,000 to Patricia.

In January 2002 Maudlin transferred a share in her home to her son Gresford. In July 2003 Maudlin instructed Alphonso to redraft her will, leaving Gresford £109,000, Bradford £75,000 and Beverley and Patricia, £4,000; later increased to £10,000 each. This will wasn’t executed.

However, it included the following EXPLANATORY NOTE:

“…Beverley and Patricia, have shown very little care and concern for me in my later years and in particular, they have both been rude, unpleasant and in some instances physically violent and abusive towards me and have verbally expressed their lack of care and concern with such statements as ‘you should be placed in a home and dead in there’. I, therefore, have no desire that they should benefit from my estate over and beyond the legacies I have made in this will.”

In April 2005 Alphonso wrote to Maudlin regarding her instructions for a new Will concerned that her “instructions are far from clear and if you require, I will again attempt to take clear instructions from you with a view to updating your will so that it accords with your wishes”.

The differences compared to the draft 2003 will include Bradford replacing Gresford as executor, some alterations in the amounts of and individuals who were to receive pecuniary legacies and the reduction in Patricia’s legacy to £100, Beverley’s to £500, with all of Maudlin’s assets bequeathed to Bradford.

Maudlin’s surviving son Bradford Barnaby is the First Claimant, co-executor and residuary beneficiary of her estate.

Alphonso Wynter, the Second Claimant was Maudlin’s solicitor for nearly 20 years before she died. He is the co-executor and draftsman of her wills from 1988-2005.

Maudlin’s surviving daughter, Patricia Johnson, is the Defendant.

Bradford and Alphonso sought probate of the 2005 Will with the acknowledgment that Maudlin had changed her mind several times in the period before the Will was executed.

Patricia claimed that her mother lacked testamentary capacity, knowledge, and approval of the will’s terms; and that Bradford had improperly caused the 2005 will to be made through undue influence and forgery.

The High Court held that there were strong presumptions in favour of the Wills validity. It was rational and was read to Maudlin who had testamentary capacity at the time. It was properly executed and the evidence of the witnesses could not be impugned.

Similarly, the Court dismissed Patricia’s claim of forgery in the will’s execution as it would have required the collusion of all three independent witnesses.

In upholding the 2005 Will the Court concluded that Patricia’s evidence was contradictory, self-serving and deliberately misleading and had come “nowhere near” establishing a basis for any proper challenge.

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