One such case involved the children of Alexander Charles David Drogo Montagu, who is the Australian born 13th Duke of Manchester and a distant relative of Diana, Princess of Wales.
In 1993 The Duke married a woman, who he had met in a country and western night club in California, a week before she gave birth to their son Alexander, 6 years later they had a second child Ashley. However in 1984 The Duke had already married another woman a fact that he had failed to disclose to his new wife. The second marriage was therefore bigamous and void a fact that threw into confusion the status of his two children as his heirs. The Duke divorced his first wife in 1996 before his second child was born and separated from his second wife in 2007. The Trustees of the Duke’s estate ceased paying the children maintenance in 2009.
The case came before the Court on the question as to whether the children were entitled to benefit from their father’s estate. The Trustees asked the Court to decide whether the children were “issue” or “descendants” of the 13th Duke’s ancestor, the 1st Duke of Manchester as only then could they benefit from his estate. The case was complicated not just by the Duke’s bigamous marriage but by a question of domicile as the laws of Australia, California and England all had to be considered.
In July 2011 the Judge held that the Trustees were entitled under the terms of the settlements to provide for the Duke’s children. He also stated that it would be wrong for England “to stand aloof in barbarous insularity from the rest of the world” by failing to failing to recognise the rights of children of bigamous marriages.
The case of Cowderoy v Cranfield was apparently far more simple and should, considering the lack of evidence, never have reached court. The case shows the lengths some people who believes they should be a beneficiary of a relatives estate will go to in the attempt to prove that they are an entitled heir.
A granddaughter of the deceased brought an action seeking revocation of the Grant of Probate and asked the Court to find that a will made 2 years before the testator died was invalid. Needless to say the granddaughter was not named as a beneficiary in the will, instead the deceased had bequeathed her entire estate to a neighbour who had become a family friend and who had also become a carer for the deceased in her latter years. This neighbour had therefore become the sole beneficiary.
The Claimant argued that the will was invalid on three grounds (1) the testator lacked testamentary capacity, (2) that she did not know and approve the will’s contents, and (3) that the will had been procured by undue influence on the part of the sole beneficiary.
Whilst the Judge found that, although the deceased had a propensity to drink alcohol which she combined with her medication meaning that she had “good days and bad days”, there was no evidence to show that on the days when she gave instructions for her will and executed it that she did not understand what she was doing or have the mental capacity to do so.
The Judge dismissed the claim finding that there was no evidence to support any of the three grounds on which the case was brought, the granddaughter therefore failing in her attempt to become a beneficiary of the deceased’s estate.
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