One lost Will and another incorrectly witnessed Will led to unexpected results in the long-running saga of Payne versus Payne.
At the age of 59, retired postal worker John Payne left his wife of 30 years to marry Kim who was then in her mid-twenties. He died in 2012 at the age of 74. His estate included his majority share of the marital home from his first marriage, a property in Plaistow worth £450,000 and a share portfolio of about £250,000.
Kim produced a Will made in 1988, shortly after she and John were married. The Will left the whole estate to her.
John’s son, also called John, challenged the Will saying there was no way his father would have left everything to Kim. He produced a 2012 Will, in which John Snr left just £15,000 to Kim and another £15,000 to his grandson. The rest of the estate was left to him.
According to John Jnr, his father would never have allowed the property to pass outside the family as it had taken the family four generations to acquire it. He said: “There is no way my late father would not have passed it on to his family.”
The battle, which has been raging for years, came to a head last year when the court spectacularly ruled that neither of the Wills was valid and that the estate would be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy meaning the estate will be split between Kim and John Snr’s children.
According to the judge, Kim had not been able to produce a signed copy of the 1998 Will while the Will of 2012 had not been properly witnessed.
However, Kim, who says she has been left a broken woman by the case is back in court. She is asking the court to allow her to bring more evidence to prove the 1998 Will is valid. Of course, John Jnr is not happy about it and continues to maintain the Will is not valid, saying, “There’s something not truthful about it.”
This is further evidence of the importance of getting professional advice when making a Will. In her book, Making a Will, Remi Aiyela has a chapter where she gives some tips for avoiding challenges to your Will. One of the tips she mentions is to make sure you carefully follow the rules for executing your Will. Another tip is to store your Will safely and tell your executors where the Will is stored.
If the tips in the book had been followed then one of the Wills would have been ruled to be valid. As it is, while the battle rages on, the value of the estate is being eroded in legal fees. In the end, there will be no winner. That’s why it is important to get professional help when making a Will particularly if there is a blended family involved.
Contact us if you are considering going to court to challenge a will. For a small fee, we can help you find out your chances before you launch into full-scale litigation and costs.