Wills and inheritance are topics often in the news and this week was no exception—the story of a carer who ended up in court after “guiding the hand” of a man as he lay dying. The case centred around the validity of the man’s will and if he was of sound mind and body when he signed it.
The courts stripped of the money she received from the millionaire 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 Marcel lacked the capacity to make such a decision. He’d 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. Marcel’s final will was dated May 2014, two days before he died aged 73, where he left 40 percent of his estate to the carer and her children.
Marcel 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 Pierce ruled the will invalid and took the money from Henderson, who has been left with a legal costs bill of up to £85,000.
Appointed Family as Executors
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 Young, and he’d appointed them executors of the will he drew up in 2008.
In that document, his brothers and sister received 26 percent each of his estate, his niece and nephew got 14 percent and a friend was to receive 7 percent.
Just before he died, however, Marcel was in hospital for two days suffering from internal bleeding, septicaemia and diabetes, and he could have been delirious because of an elevated temperature.
The solicitor acting for Marcel’s family said the will wasn’t proven to have been executed by Marcel, and that he “almost certainly” lacked the capacity to do so. A handwriting expert concluded that the deceased did not write the signature.
Held Hand for 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 if reflected his wishes.
Judge Price said the 2014 will couldn’t be regarded as valid.
Mrs Henderson and two friends met with a will writer in the weeks before Marcel died. Mrs Henderson told the will writer she was a friend, rather than a carer.
The judge said that while it may be permissible for a testator to help in signing a document, but the scope of the assistance had to be limited, and there was a distinction between leading and steadying a hand. The distinction was when the assistance led to the formation of the letters.
Earlier Will Favoured
He added that the medical evidence relating to Marcel’s state was compelling. Marcel’s family appeared to have been excluded from the writing of the new will and the time of his final illness. He said he had “no hesitation reaching the conclusion” that Marcel’s siblings were entitled to a decree in formal form in favour of the earlier will.
Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “It’s easy to see why this story attracted so much media attention. The idea of someone taking advantage of another in such a vulnerable position is abhorrent.
“One of the services we offer to give the rightful beneficiaries to an estate peace of mind is a self-approval arrangement with Aviva for missing will insurance products. This protects you when specific heirs or branches of a family can’t be traced, or it is no longer economically viable for research to continue to try to find the missing heirs.
“It also protects in cases where other heirs come forward after the estate has been distributed.”