Suspicious Circumstances: 7 Things to Check When You are Left Out of a Will


Sun Tzu: The rising of birds in their flight is the sign of an ambush. Startled beasts indicate that a sudden attack is coming.

When your rich uncle leaves you out of his will, the obvious explanation is that he was nuts. However if the will appears rational and correctly executed the court will presume that the deceased was mentally competent unless there are suspicious circumstances. The nature of the suspicious circumstances can depend on the inventiveness of the deceased's family, friends and neighbours but here are some examples:

  1. Enfeebled physical and mental state e.g. medical evidence of significant cognitive impairment and continual deterioration. 
  2. Evidence of confusion e.g. concerns by friends that the deceased would sign anything put in front of him.  
  3. Lack of care in preparation by the lawyer e.g. no written record or over 5 (make that 15) typos. 
  4. A carer left a substantial benefit.
  5. Terms of the will departed significantly from previous will e.g. it excludes a person you would expect to inherit. 
  6. Questions concerning the witness e.g. a doctor witnessing a will should not only be satisfied as to the capacity and understanding of the deceased but also make a record of his examination and findings.
  7. A beneficiary receiving substantial benefit was a controlling force behind instructions to make the will e.g. the beneficiary took a relative to instruct a lawyer and was in the lawyer's office when the will was signed. 


Once you establish circumstances supporting a well-grounded suspicion the court will look closely at the evidence to decide if the deceased knew and approved of the contents i.e an awareness by the deceased: 

  • That a will was being made. 
  • Of the estate and its value. 
  • Of the persons who could be expected to receive an inheritance in the circumstances. 
  • Of the strength of the claims of potential beneficiaries. 

The Court must be satisfied that the will reflects the real intention of the deceased. Even the craziest uncle can have a lucid interval at about the time he excludes you from his will. 

© Paul Brennan 2020. All rights Reserved.

 Extract from "The Art of War, Peace & Palaver: The Contentious Guide to Legal Disputes" by Paul Brennan

Listen to this article on the Law podcast 



Popular posts from this blog

The most popular podcasts

Choosing the right lawyer

Coping with the Wicked Step Mom in your life