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E&W High Court upholds mother's decision to disinherit daughter for unkindness

Thursday, 12 December, 2019

The daughter of Maudlin Bascoe has failed to overturn a will made by her mother in 2005, in which she was left only a token GBP100 legacy.

Mrs Bascoe died in 2015, just short of the age of 97. She had four children and eight grandchildren. The dispute arose between one daughter, Patricia Johnson, and her brother Barnaby, whom Mrs Bascoe had appointed her executor jointly with Alphonso Wynter. Wynter had been Mrs Bascoe's solicitor and drafted her various wills.

Patricia Johnson claimed that Barnaby had improperly caused the 2005 will to be made through undue influence and forgery. She also alleged that Mrs Bascoe lacked both testamentary capacity and knowledge and approval of the will's terms.

Barnaby and his co-executor went to court seeking probate of the disputed will. It was acknowledged that Mrs Bascoe had changed her mind several times in the period before 2005 about the size of the legacies she proposed to leave her children, especially Patricia Johnson and another daughter, Beverley. Moreover, her other son had by this time died.

There were no attendance notes available about the drafting of the 2005 will, which reduced Patricia Johnson's legacy to GBP100 and Beverley's to GBP500, the rest going to Barnaby. But the will also included an explanatory note, apparently drafted in 2003, stating that 'both my daughters have shown very little care and concern for me in my later years and in particular they have both been rude, unpleasant and in some instances physically violent and abusive towards me and have verbally expressed their lack of care and concern... I therefore have no desire that they should benefit from my estate over and beyond the legacies I have made in this will.'

Mrs Bascoe's medical records were also available, and showed no support for Patricia Johnson's allegation that her mother had suffered from dementia 'since about 2001,' although it was evident that she had lost capacity later on. Moreover, her solicitor, Wynter, gave evidence that there was no question in his mind that Mrs Bascoe was unduly influenced by Barnaby or anyone else. Likewise, he had no doubt as to her mental capacity to make and execute the 2005 will, and if there had been the slightest doubt he would have arranged for a medical examination. He confirmed that he recalled reading the will out to Mrs Bascoe.

The judge accordingly dismissed Patricia Johnson's' claims entirely, noting in passing that her accusation of forgery in the will's execution would have required the collusion of all three independent witnesses. He duly found for the executors and granted probate to the 2005 will (Barnaby v Johnson, 2019 EWHC 3344 Ch).