Mr Chu died on 11 May 2014, aged 73. He left an estate worth £1m. Two days before his death he made a 'deathbed' will which left 40 per cent of his estate to his carer, Mrs Henderson and her children.
Mr Chu’s previous will, from 2008, left his estate to his immediate family and a close friend. Mrs Henderson was not a beneficiary of this will.
The beneficiaries of the first will argued that the latest will was not valid on the grounds that the Mr Chu lacked capacity at the time it was executed.
Lack of capacity
When Mr Chu gave instructions and executed his will he was suffering from a rare autoimmune condition leading to memory loss and confusion. He also had septicaemia, diabetes, blood pressure problems and a temperature that could have caused delirium.
Mrs Henderson admitted that she had organised the drawing up of the new will and admitted that she held his hand whilst he signed it. She claimed that she assisted Mr Chu because of his failing health but the will was a true reflection of his wishes.
The court heard from a handwriting expert who stated that in his opinion the signature was not that of Mr Chu. The judge stated that “it may be that it is permissible for a testator to be helped in signing a document, but the scope of such assistance must be limited… however there is a distinction between leading and steadying the hand.”
In evidence it was stated that Mrs Henderson took control of Mr Chu’s life and excluded his family during the final year before he died.
Outcome and costs
The court held that the medical evidence was compelling as to the state Mr Chu was in when he executed the will. The court therefore ruled that the will was invalid on the grounds of lack of capacity.
Mrs Henderson was not present at the trial, nor was she represented. The judge subsequently ordered that Mrs Henderson pay the family’s costs, which were in the region of £85,000. However it was noted that Mrs Henderson is a carer on a very modest income so there is a question as to whether the family will realistically be able to recover anything.