Schizophrenic’s Decision To Leave Estate To Charity In Will Upheld

High Court Ruling On Testamentary Capacity Case

16.01.2014

The High Court has ruled that a schizophrenic who chose to leave his estate to the Vegetarian Society instead of his family, despite not supporting the charity’s aims, was within his rights to do so.

The case of Vegetarian Society v Scott revolved around the Will of Hereford man John McKeen, who passed away in 2007 and left his estate worth more than £1 million. In his final Will made a year earlier, he left family members a small amount and a majority of his estate to the Vegetarian Society.

His younger sister launched a legal challenge in relation to the Will, arguing that her brother did not have testamentary capacity when he made the document and that he had never been vegetarian, vegan or supported the charity in any way.

After listening to all of the evidence, Judge Simon Barker said that Mr McKeen had made several property transactions through his life which showed he was capable of rational decisions. As such, the claim he was incapable of making a valid Will was rejected.

He added that the simple fact in the case was that the testator “did not feel the bond of natural love and affection with his blood family that usually exists” when making the document.

Expert Opinion
This case is another example of the high level of scrutiny that the courts will place cases under, in order to make the fairest possible decision in relation to testamentary capacity based on the facts available.

"In these circumstances, after a review of all of the evidence it was ruled that there was proof that the testator was able to make rational decisions despite suffering from the disorder which affected him throughout his life.

"The entire scenario is also an example of why we always encourage people who are writing Wills to share the contents and the reasons behind the decisions with their loved ones from the earliest opportunity.

"This would ensure that everyone is clear why the decisions in Wills have been made, hopefully reducing the possibility of Will disputes of this nature emerging in the long term.

"Through our work representing people in contested Wills cases, we know the heartache and difficulty such cases can create. We would urge people to do everything they can to ensure their loved ones are in no doubt as to why they have made such decisions."
Julia Burns, Associate