A recent case involving a carer who ended up in Court after “guiding the hand” of a man as he lay dying centred on the validity of his Will and whether he was of sound mind when he signed it.
The Court found against the carer and stripped her of the money she received from the millionaire whom she looked after.
Donna Henderson is thought to have taken advantage of retired banker, Marcel Chu, as he was dying. A signature on his Will, which specified that half of his £1 million estate was go to Henderson and her children, was not in the banker’s handwriting.
The Court also ruled that Mr Chu lacked the necessary mental capacity (known as testamentary capacity) to make such a decision. He had made an earlier Will in 2008, which divided his estate between his family (his brothers and sister) and a close friend.
The Court heard Henderson had taken control of his life in his final year and excluded his siblings. Mr Chu’s final Will was dated May 2014, two days before he died, aged 73, in which he left 40% of his estate to his carer and her children.
Mr Chu was suffering from Morvan’s syndrome, an auto-immune condition which can cause confusion and memory loss. In the final year of his life, he could no longer live without help.
Judge Nigel Price ruled the will invalid and took the money from Henderson, who has been left with a legal costs bill of up to £85,000.
Marcel Chu made his money in banking before retiring to his £700,000 flat in East London. He was said to have a close relationship with his brothers, Allen and Stanley, and sister Eva, appointing them as executors of the Will he drew up in 2008.
In that document, his brothers and sister received 26% each of his estate, his niece and nephew got 14% and a friend was to receive 7%.
However, just before he died, Marcel was in hospital for two days suffering from internal bleeding, septicaemia and diabetes, which may have caused him to be delirious due to having an elevated temperature.
The solicitor acting for Mr Chu’s family said the Will was not proven to have been executed by him, and that he “almost certainly” lacked the capacity to do so. A handwriting expert concluded that the deceased did not write the signature.
Mrs Henderson admitted the held the banker’s hand when he signed his Will, although she claimed he helped him “of his own free will”, and that it reflected his wishes.
Judge Price said the 2014 Will could not be regarded as valid.
Mrs Henderson and two friends met with a Will writer in the weeks before Mr Chu died. She told the Will writer that she was a friend of Mr Chu, rather than his carer.
The judge said that, while it may be permissible for a testator to help in signing a document, the scope of the assistance had to be limited, and there was a distinction between leading and steadying a hand. The distinction reached when the assistance led to the formation of the letters.
He added that the medical evidence relating to Mr Chu’s state was compelling. Mr Chu’s family appeared to have been excluded from the writing of the new Will at the time of his final illness. He said he had “no hesitation reaching the conclusion” that Mr Chu’s siblings were entitled to a formal decree in favour of the earlier Will.