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Will Challenge – Barnaby v Johnson (2019)

A high-profile case which came before the High Court involving a claim brought by an unrepresented Claimant against her late mother’s Will.


Mrs Bascoe made a Will in 1992 in which she left an inheritance worth £100,000 to each of her four children.

Following a very strained relationship with her 2 daughters, she decided to review her wishes and in 2005 she gave instructions to have a revised Will prepared. In this, she expressed clearly that she did not wish to leave her daughters anything “beyond the legacies I have made in this Will.”

She cited her daughters as being “rude, unpleasant and in some instances physically violent” and in view of their behaviour towards her she left £100 to her daughter Patricia and £500 to her other daughter Beverley. The remainder of her estate was to pass to her son Barnaby, who was also a named executor alongside the Will-drafter.

The Claim

Mrs Bascoe died in 2015 at the age of 96. Patricia claimed her mother lacked capacity at the time the revised Will was made due to her showing signs of dementia in 2001, and therefore her earlier Will should take effect. She also made claims of undue influence by her brother Barnaby along with the claim that her mothers’ signature had been forged.

It was found that whilst Mrs Bascoe did later lose capacity, at the time she made her revised Will in 2005, it was clear she had capacity. On review of the medical records, it was also relevant that the family had only raised concerns about dementia in 2008, which was 3 years after the revised Will had been made. Mrs Bascoe was formally diagnosed in February 2009 as suffering from Dementia.

The Will-writer gave evidence that there was no concern or indication  of undue influence from any third party when he took Mrs Bascoe’s instructions for the revised Will.


The Judge found against Patricia, ruling that the 2005 Will was indeed valid. There was no evidence of undue influence or that the signature on the Will had been forged – if this had been the case, then realistically the witnesses to the Will would also have had to have been party to the alleged collusion.

Although it was clear that Mrs Bascoe had changed her mind on a number of occasions about the split of her estate before the final Will had been drawn up and that no attendance notes had been made, it was relevant that alongside the Will, Mrs Bascoe had written a letter of wishes explaining the reasons for the disproportionate sums of money to her children (as explained above) and it was very clear she did not want her daughters to benefit further from her estate.

So, what are the take away points from all of this?

A professional Will writing service will ensure clear instructions are taken from clients, without third party interference or pressure. If you wish to leave disproportionate sums to children, expect your advisor to wish to explore and record the reasons. A letter of wishes may be helpful, rather than to spell out in the Will itself aspects of behaviour or conduct which may generate hostile feelings.

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