On May 3rd 2013, Pauline Greaves won the right to remain in her deceased partner’s home (Leslie Stolkin) despite a legal challenge from his son.
The case involved Leslie Stolkin, a wealthy property developer, and Pauline Greaves, who were not married but had lived together for 12 years. Leslie died in September 2009 after having become seriously ill with Motor Neurone Disease. Years earlier he had made a will leaving all his estate to his son, Gary. The will didn’t leave anything to Pauline. He did, however, leave a letter of wishes requesting that she receive regular maintenance payments from his estate after his death.
However, Leslie later added notes to the will saying that in the event of his death, his partner was
to receive £1,000 a month from his estate and be allowed to continue living in the home they shared. When she died, the house would then pass to Gary.
Leslie then became seriously ill and during his last few months in hospital, with the assistance of solicitors, he executed a codicil (a legal amendment to a will) leaving an annuity of £12,000, a car and a life interest in his home to Pauline. The solicitor attended Leslie in hospital and made sure he fully understood what he was doing. The codicil was then executed in the correct way.
When Leslie died, his son challenged the codicil. He claimed his father had lacked testamentary capacity – that is, the clarity of mind needed to fully understand what he was doing when altering the terms of his Will.
Two medical experts gave evidence, however, they disagreed with each other as to Leslie’s capacity at the time the codicil was executed. Dr Andrew Barker considered the deceased had capacity, whilst Professor Hodgkinson thought that his “cognitive impairment, depression, lack of mental energy and ability to concentrate” had caused him to accept and sign the document passively.
Mr Justice Newy said that the Court should be reluctant to allow a challenge to a Will based on lack of mental capacity where a Will has been drafted by an experienced independent lawyer.
The court therefore rejected the son’s claims and upheld the revised Will.
The fact that the Will had been prepared by an independent solicitor made it difficult to challenge its validity.