Home-made wills, executed without legal advice, are an exceedingly bad idea and if there was ever a case which proved the point it must be that of a woman who intended to leave her £1.8 million fortune to her best friend – but whose wishes were thwarted because her will was not properly witnessed.
There was no doubt that the woman had signed the will herself and the High Court found that she had intended to leave all but £25,000 of her estate to her friend, a woman in her 90s from whom she had been inseparable since childhood. She had understood and approved the contents of the will and, having no children or close family of her own, her generosity was readily explicable.
However, the Court found that there were aspects of the will which excited suspicion. The woman was not present when the home-made will was witnessed by two people who said that they been labouring under the misapprehension that they were signing the will of the main beneficiary. The witnesses had not signed the will in each other's presence and there was also no evidence that it had been read over to the woman before she appended her own signature.
The Court found that the will had not been properly attested, in accordance with the Wills Act 1837, and was thus invalid. It instead pronounced in favour of an earlier will by which the woman had left her entire estate to four national charities.