The sinister tale of a family in turmoil after allegations against their father a generation ago has ended with children losing out in a battle over the family’s estate.
The tale of three members of the Swindon family losing their challenge to the Will of their late mother on the grounds of lack of mental capacity, and of undue influence by her husband, is unusual.
There were 11 children in the Ball family and way back in 1991, while their father James Ball was still alive, three of them reported him to the police for indecently assaulting them when they were youngsters.
It led to a prosecution at which he admitted some of the charges and received a suspended prison sentence.
However, the recently deceased mother Barbara Ball strongly disapproved of the three children’s decision to go to the police, and the following year, made a Will that excluded them from any share of her estate, instead dividing her estate between her other children and one of her grandsons.
James Ball died over a decade ago and Barbara Ball died in 2013 without having made a new Will. Although her estate is worth a fairly modest £157,000, the three disinherited siblings decided to challenge the Will on the twin grounds of lack of capacity and undue influence by her husband.
The claimants’ argument was based on the view that Mr Ball had told his wife that he was innocent of the accusations, and that this was what had led her to disinherit them. Thus, the argument continued that her mind was impaired in the sense that she was misled and … would not have reached those conclusions had she not been misled.
The undue influence argument was based on the fact that Mrs Ball had disinherited the three grown up offspring in response to their accusations against Mr Ball, and must, therefore, have been influenced by Mr Ball.
However, both arguments were rejected in the High Court. The judge noted that there was evidence that Mr Ball had admitted to his wife that some of the children’s allegations against him were true. She was not therefore misled, which disposed of the argument from lack of capacity.
The judge’s’ assessment of the undue influence claim was more subjective. He considered that Mrs Ball was entitled to make the Will she had made, and the fact that some others did not like her Will did not mean it was made under undue influence.
This sad case is another example of the growth of contested Wills in the UK. Such family disputes have been on the rise for many years now and show no sign of slowing down.
Wills need to be watertight and detail given to avoid disputes, as much as possible. It is a document, which cannot be left to chance.
If you wish to know more about Wills, estates or any other legal issue, we at Dale and Newbery and our specialist professionals are happy to help. Contact us today for advice.