Interesting Cases – Cleaner Challenges Successfully for her Employers Estate.

The High Court has ruled in favour of a cleaner who is set to inherit more than £400,000 of her deceased employers’ estate. 

The cleaner, Mrs DaCosta had worked for Mr Tickner for over ten years before her employer died of cancer in June 2015. 

Following the death of his wife in 2012, Mr Tickner remained a lonely figure, with only a daughter and nephew set to inherit his estate. Mrs DaCosta acted as a carer for Mr Tickner in the absence of his wife – often taking Mr Tickner to expensive restaurants so he could experience his only remaining pleasurable pastime. 

Mr Tickner, by way of interest who had worked as a head waiter at the Savoy Hotel after World War II, found fine dining to be his only pleasure, and Mrs DaCosta would often accompany Mr Tickner as he frequented restaurants up to three times per week. It was concurred that Mrs DaCosta would clean and cook for her employer and was a consistent a reliable source of company for him.  

Following an argument with his nephew in 2013, Mrs DaCosta became one of his only companions. 

Mrs DaCosta became an invaluable part of his life and support network. Mr Tickner made a will in 2014, leaving a £25,000 gift to both his nephew and daughter, a £50,000 gift to a friend, and the rest to Mrs DaCosta who had worked and looked after him every day. 

However, as Mr Tickner was nearing death, he made amends with his nephew who became a prevalent figure for Mr Tickner in his final days. 

A matter of days before Mr Tickner died, two additional documents were executed, disinheriting Mrs DaCosta leaving his entire home to a nephew, and the remaining assets, amounting to £15,000 to his daughter.  

The final will was challenged by Mrs DaCosta, claiming that the deceased employer lacked the capacity to understand the changes he was making to his final expressed wishes towards the end of his life, as the illness intensified.  

The Court heard that 2014 will was made by Mr Tickner’s usual solicitor, and therefore the contents was known to him. 

Following expert testimony on Mr Ticker’s condition towards the end of his life, it was clear that he would not have had the testamentary capacity needed to clearly make the second will in 2015. 

Although the judge has upheld the validity of the 2014 will, Mrs DaCosta will now need to contest the gift of the house made to the nephew, before she is able to claim her inheritance from the 2014 will, that case is set for a later date. 

Interestingly amongst the presiding judge comments, it was concluded; 

The 2014 will was prepared by his usual solicitor, read to him and explained to him by them. 

In my judgment, it is clear that he did know and approve its contents. 

It seems to me, that on the expert evidence, I would have to conclude that Mr Tickener was incapable of making a will in 2015.  

I would therefore hold that the 2015 will is invalid, on the grounds of lack of capacity. 

I pronounce against the 2015 will, and in favour of the 2014 will.  

It is not known whether an appeal will be made against this judgement. 

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