A woman who contested the will her father made shortly before he died has been left with a legal bill larger than her inheritance, after the High Court ruled that her liability to contribute to the legal costs of the executors and beneficiaries who won the case was not to be limited to the sum she expects to inherit.
The woman, her late father's illegitimate daughter, was left £100,000 in his will when her expectation had been to inherit his entire estate. Only two weeks before he died, her father had changed his will, leaving the remainder of his estate (more than £500,000) to his four siblings, using a pro-forma will they had bought from a stationery shop.
The daughter contested the new will on the ground that her father had signed it without 'knowledge and approval'. The document had been drafted by her aunts before being signed by her father...which she claimed to have involved 'undue duress'.
She claimed that her father had always been financially generous to her and had told her that she was his sole beneficiary.
Although the judge in the High Court found the circumstances under which the new will had been executed 'suspicious', he decided, on the balance of probabilities, that it should be admitted to probate and given legal effect.
Although the woman was not legally represented, the executors were, and claimed the right to recover their legal costs from her. After arguments about costs led to another court hearing, the Court ruled that the legal costs of the winners should not be limited to the £100,000 the woman was left in the will, leaving her in a position where she may have to sell her house to pay the balance of the legal costs of the winners.