Contentious Probate: Using Certainty Will Search to establish intestacy

Contentious Probate Matter

In matters concerning vulnerable people and estate administration, there are unfortunately many stories where estates are contested due to actions taken by those close to them to influence their position in regard to estate administration in the future.

Alongside Court of Protection and contentious probate proceedings, Certainty Will Searches provide an excellent tool to seek clarity for family and potential beneficiaries by locating any registered Wills with The National Will Register and conducting searches of unregistered Wills as well.

Katherine Marshall, a Senior Solicitor at Wilkin Chapman shares an ongoing complex contentious probate matter where she has used a Certainty Will Search to help seek some clarity on her client’s interest as regards to the rules of intestacy:

“We are instructed by the sister of the Deceased, an elderly lady at the time of her death, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 21. She continued to struggle with mental health issues throughout her life.

“She was known to Social Services, being identified as being highly vulnerable and easily influenced.

“In October 2019, the son of a family friend took the Deceased to a registry office to marry. The Registrar questioned Deceased’s mental capacity, prompting an investigation by the local council and Court of Protection proceedings were commenced for an order appointing the local authority as the Deceased’s Deputy.

“An interim order was made at which the Court made an interim ruling that the Deceased lacked capacity to enter into a marriage and lacked capacity to manage her property and financial affairs.

“Less than two weeks after the interim hearing, the Deceased was taken by the family friend to a firm of solicitors to make a Will appointing him as sole Executor and Beneficiary. There is property in the estate valued at approximately £600,000.

“An expert report obtained in the Court of Protection proceedings determined that the Deceased lacked capacity, amongst other things, to make a Will and that she was at significant risk of being unduly influenced.

“Sadly, the Deceased died prior to the conclusion of those proceedings. As such, we are now seeking to declare the Will invalid.

“One of the initial steps has been to conduct a search of The National Will Register to establish whether any prior wills were made, in order to establish our client’s interest under rules of intestacy.”

Katharine conducted a Certainty Will Search and it showed no other Will in the system and as such it has strengthened the client’s position that the Deceased died intestate and that their position based on intestacy can be heard.

Will Searches can benefit those who are vulnerable both in life and after they pass. Professional deputies can perform a Will Search to find the most up-to-date Will to find their wishes and act in a manner that best reflects these as part of acting in their best interest.

In cases where the person is deceased, executors and probate solicitors can do exactly as Katharine Marshall did on behalf of her client in ascertaining if there are any Wills registered that may have been made while the Deceased had capacity so that the estate can be administered accordingly, otherwise to follow the rules of intestacy.

For more information on how Will Searches can assist you and your clients, contact your account manager, or call us directly on 0330 100 3660.