Coronation Street’s Carla Connor in will challenge shocker!
I approached a suggestion to cover the recent storyline in Coronation Street with some trepidation. A favourite in our household when I was growing up, I stopped watching it about 20 years ago.
In case you also missed it, the Connor family is challenging the will of the late Aiden Connor on the basis he left his entire estate, including the underwear manufacturer Underworld, to Alya, a young woman and junior member of the management team. The challenge is based on Aiden not having testamentary capacity.
If the real world may intrude for a minute, the law of testamentary capacity still follows the Victorian case of Banks-v-Goodfellow. The person leaving the will (the testator) should understand, at the time the instructions are given to the will drafter, what a will is for and what it can do, the extent of their property and the possible expectations of likely beneficiaries, a process which should not be overborne by mental illness.
The test in Banks-v-Goodfellow has survived the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and its less-specific test for legal capacity. The will, will be presumed to be valid if it is rational on its face; is duly executed and witnessed; the testator knew and approved its contents and was not coerced (undue influence) and his mind was not poisoned by false statements about a likely beneficiary (fraudulent calumny).
What this storyline got me thinking about most, is whether Carla, as a half-sister of the deceased and a business associate, and the other challengers to the will, have interests sufficient enough to actually mount challenges to the will.
Nineteenth century case law indicates that the bare possibility of an interest in an estate is sufficient to having legal standing to challenge the validity of a will. Much more recent authority holds that someone who is able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 also has a sufficient interest to bring a validity claim.
As you can see, contentious probate can be a complex area and as such, it is often not wise to proceed without clear legal guidance.