Roythornes Banner Image


News and Events

Unfair Wills - Gowing v Ward

View profile for Leah Merrifield
  • Posted
  • Author

In my blog “can you challenge an unfair will?” I explained that a will that seems unfair is not necessarily invalid. Here, I look at the case of Gowing v Ward, another recent case in which a will that might seem to some to be unfair was nonetheless upheld by the court.

This case concerned the estate of Frederick Ward, who was known as Fred. Fred had three children, Fred junior, Terence and Susan. Fred junior had sadly passed away during Fred’s own lifetime, leaving five daughters of his own.

Fred junior’s five daughters (Fred’s grandchildren) were the claimants in this case.

Under Fred’s previous will his estate was split equally between his three children, and Fred junior’s five daughters would have inherited their father’s share. However, Fred made a new will in November 2018 which divided his residuary estate between Terence and Susan, leaving only token gifts of £50 to each of his grandchildren.

Fred was very unwell during the later years of his life and had difficulty leaving his home due to needing an oxygen tank. When giving instructions to his solicitor for his 2018 will, Fred explained that his grandchildren had not visited him when he was in hospital, and he had been hurt by that.

The grandchildren disputed the 2018 will on numerous grounds, including that Fred lacked capacity, that he was unduly influenced and that he did not know and approve the terms of his will. The grandchildren’s arguments included an assertion that the will was irrational.

The court acknowledged that some people would take the view that where somebody’s child had passed away, they ought generally to leave the share of their estate that the child would have inherited to the child’s own children. However, the court’s view was that Fred’s decision to split his estate between his surviving children could hardly be said to be irrational.

The court explained that the will needed to be considered from Fred’s perspective. Fred had been disappointed by his grandchildren’s behaviour and their relationship with him following their father’s death. The question was not whether Fred’s views were objectively reasonable, but whether the will was rational from his point of view. Given Fred’s feelings, the will was perfectly rational.

This case gives a useful example of a will that was not found to be irrational, but there will be different facts to consider in every case. If you have any concerns about the validity of a will, please contact us and one of our specialist team will be able to assist you.