The case of Watts v Watts ( EWHC 668 (Ch)) involved a Machiavellian-sounding plot to forge a death-bed Will.
Valerie Watts made a Will in 1999 under which her two adopted children, Christine and Gary, inherited equally.
In 2011, a second Will was made while Valerie was in hospital with terminal cancer and the sole beneficiary was Gary. Christine challenged the validity of the Will and also made a 1975 Act claim that, if the Will was held to be valid, it did not make adequate financial provision for her.
This Will was drawn up by her sister Yvonne using a WHSmith Will pack. Upon reading the instructions, Yvonne and Gary realised that Gary could not act as witness. They therefore drafted in a nurse, Jackie Brown, who was a witness along with Yvonne.
But all was not as it seemed… It turned out that Nurse Jackie did not know she was witnessing a Will for Valerie, she thought she was witnessing Gary’s signature as next of kin. In fact, she didn’t see Valerie sign at all.
And there was more… Valerie’s signature was very similar to that on her driving licence. However, earlier that day she had signed a Do Not Resuscitate form – her last known authentic signature. This was very shaky and, according to a handwriting expert, did not match the signature on the Will.
The judge held that the Will was not validly signed and pronounced in favour of the 1999 Will.
She went on to say that had the 2011 Will been valid, Christine’s 1975 Act claim would have succeeded and she would have been entitled to half. Gary and Yvonne had been very scathing of Christine’s failure to visit her mum in hospital. However, the judge found there were valid reasons for this. Valerie and Christine had had a difficult relationship due to the fact that Valerie had had difficulties accepting that Christine was gay. She had also been upset that Christine had reconnected with her father against her wishes. Further, Christine had health problems which had made it very difficult for her to visit her mum.
The judge also compared Gary and Christine’s financial circumstances which were both, frankly, pretty dire. On balance, Christine’s need was slightly greater.