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Engineer’s children and step children in estate row

Jack Leonard was a successful engineer who invented a foetal heart monitor and left behind an estate valued at £5.4 million.

The bitter legal dispute which followed between his biological and stepchildren is a clear reminder of the importance of financial planning during lifetime and ensuring you make a Will whilst capacity is not a concern.

 

What are the circumstances of this case?

Jack Leonard was married twice. He had children with his first wife Audrey Leonard.

Later, he married Margaret Leonard and was said to have treated her family “as his own”.

When he died in 2019, at age 87, Leonard’s will, which was written in 2015, divided his wealth seven ways between his two families, with his stepchildren and their families inheriting shares equivalent to his biological ones.

His biological children argued that his stepchildren should not benefit from the estate, arguing that their father’s final will was invalid because he lacked the mental capacity to understand or approve the document.

They went on to claim that the court should consider Leonard’s previous will, drafted eight years earlier, as his final document and submitted for probate.

 

What was the outcome?

Sitting in the High Court in London, Mrs Justice Joanna Smith ruled that Jack Leonard, who suffered from dementia in the years leading up to his death, no longer had the mental ‘capacity’ to understand all of the contents of his 2015 will by the time he made it and she handed victory to Dr Leonard’s own children, leaving his stepchildren with nothing from his will.

Whilst the judge’s decision serves as a vital reminder to solicitors of the precautions they should always take when receiving instructions from elderly or vulnerable clients it also highlights the importance of planning during lifetime and not replying solely on a will, particularly where blended families are involved.

Get in touch with Michelle Willson at Michelle.Willson@cowgills.co.uk to find out more about our service and how we can help you.

Disclaimer

The information was correct at time of publishing but may now be out of date.

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Posted by Michelle Willson
1st March, 2024
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