In contentious probate cases, it is often the case that more than one allegation is made.  For example, it is not unusual to find that someone argues that the deceased was subject to undue influence when making their last will, and that they did not know and approve of the contents. 

In the case of Jeffrey v Jeffrey [2013] EWHC 1942, there were a wide range of allegations.  These included that the testator lacked capacity, that she was subject to undue influence, that she did not know and approve of the contents of her will, fraud and that the executors were unfit to act.

Mrs Daphne Jeffrey died on 20 February 2010.  Her last will was dated 5 July 2007 and left her estate to one of her two sons, Nicholas, and the children of her other son Andrew.  Andrew began proceedings claiming that his mother's last 4 wills (dated 2007, 2004, 2002 and 1982 were all invalid.

The background to the proceedings was sad and complicated.  Mrs Jeffrey had fallen out with Andrew several years earlier.  Andrew conducted the proceedings in person, and so the Judge produced an extremely comprehensive judgment setting out the factual background in great detail.  He concluded that Andrew simply could not bring himself to accept that his mother had voluntarily disinherited him, and so was looking to pin the blame elsewhere.

The judge did not agree that Mrs Jeffrey lacked capacity. She had been on medication for a long time prior to her death - both because she suffered from COPD and for anxiety - but medical evidence suggested that none of the medication would have had any impact on her capacity.  She was sometimes eccentric, but not enough to suggest she lacked capacity.  The judge also accepted the evidence of the solicitor who wrote the will, who said that he had no reason to doubt capacity. 

The judge concluded that Mrs Jeffrey "never suffered from any mentally incapacitating complaint, even if she did experience occasional anxiety and mild depression.  If people suffering from such complaints were unable to make wills, a large percentage of the population would be so inhibited."

Undue influence is very difficult to prove in relation to a will - Andrew would have had to show that Nicholas had coerced his mother into changing her will in his favour.  The judge found that it was actually Mrs Jeffrey who was the dominant personality, describing Nicholas as a 'pawn' in her game.  When Mrs Jeffrey made her will disinheriting Andrew, she did so of her own free will.  There was no evidence of undue influence.

As a result, it was clear that Mrs Jeffrey knew and approved of the contents of her will.  There was no evidence at all of fraud.

The allegations made were unsubstantiated, and the 2007 will was valid.  Nicholas was able to take a Grant of Probate.

This case shows the danger of making multiple complaints without having the evidence to back them up.  The trial eventually took 4 days, and the judgment stretched to 250 paragraphs.  This would not have come cheap.  Andrew appears to have taken something of a scatter gun approach to the litigation, making a wide range of allegations without considering whether the evidence supported those.  This is not a sensible or cost effective way to run litigation.