Dementia and the damage it can do to estate planning

( A man has lost a three-year legal dispute with his siblings over their mother’s Will.

Duncan Parsonage said his mother’s most recent Will was written in 2011 when she was suffering from dementia and so should be deemed invalid, and her previous 2010 Will, where he inherited more, should be used.

The High Court judge ruled in favour of the siblings, and said that while their mother, Beryl Parsonage, was suffering from dementia-like symptoms when the second Will was drafted, her dementia had not adversely affected her capacity to set out her final wishes.

When the 2011 Will was written, the court said Beryl Parsonage was focused on making sure that it was “equal” between her children.

The court added: “There is no evidence she meant to favour any particular individual to a material extent and to the detriment of the other, or, indeed, all her grandchildren instead of her children.

“Beryl Parsonage knew and approved of the terms and effect of the 2011 Will, and that it reflected her true intentions.”

Difference in Wills

The 2011 Will is very short and revoked all earlier versions.

The court said it provided for the payment of debts, executorship expenses and inheritance tax, with the almost £1m ($1.23m, €1.12m) estate to be divided equally between her four children.

Whereas, the 2010 Will is different in its “provisions”, the court added.

Duncan Parsonage was given the family home, while £35,000 was given to each of the four children.

The court said that “after payment of debts, executorship expenses and IHT on all property passing under the 2010 Will, the residue is divided into two shares one of which is bequeathed” to two of her other children.

There was no mention of the fourth sibling.

This would have left Duncan Parsonage around £500,000 better off than his brother and sisters.

“She materially misunderstood the nature and extent of her estate, had a misconceived idea that three of her children had received significant lifetime gifts of property or financial assistance in property transactions, and demonstrably failed to achieve her declared purpose of treating her children equally,” the court said.

Dementia and planning

David Gibb, financial planner at Quilter, said: “Dementia is unfortunately a high possibility in the current day.

“And this is has huge implications for ensuring that your wealth is distributed as you’d like it to. Debates around inheritance have the potential to bring out the worst in people and destroy families.

“Figures shows that more and more people are taking to the courts to sort out these disputes, something which can cost more than the inheritance was worth in the first place.

“This case hinges on the fact that Beryl Parsonage updated her Will at a time when she was beginning to show signs of dementia.

“When it comes to estate planning it’s important to update your Will as soon as possible whenever there is a significant life event or circumstances change as you never know what is around the corner.”


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