A case which recently came before the High Court illustrates how complicated probate issues can be, especially where the will was written in another country or involves assets abroad.
The case involved an Indian man, who lived in the UK and owned several properties here as well as land in India. He was killed in a traffic accident during a visit to India with his son in 2005.
His son alleged that the man had executed a will in India three days before his death, giving his entire estate to him. The man’s daughters stood to inherit nothing under the will, but would share in his estate if he were ruled to have died intestate. They argued that the will made just before their father’s death was procured by undue influence or was not executed by their father or that it was created without him having knowledge of its contents. His previous intention had always been to provide for his daughters.
It was further argued that the will, if valid, only dealt with the man’s assets in India, not those in the UK.
When the dispute came to court, the evidence of the man’s will-writer in India was critical. He testified that the will was drafted according to the man’s instructions, without pressure being exerted on him, and was confirmed by him when it was read back to him. As there was no evidence of undue influence, that claim failed.
The court also ruled that in the absence of a statement limiting the effect of the will to the man’s assets in India, it must be presumed to include his entire estate. The challenge on that basis therefore also failed.
Where an arrangement is being contemplated that benefits one member of the family, it is always sensible to obtain legal advice so that it can be demonstrated that the arrangement was understood and entered into freely.
Click here for a guide to making your will easier to execute.