How do I find out the circumstances leading to a will? – Larke v Nugus requests
When someone finds out they have been treated unfairly in a will, the most common reaction is “how did this happen?”. Depending on what happened there are a range of legal remedies, some more complex and expensive than others. To go down the wrong route can cost tens of thousands of pounds in wasted legal fees.
One of the first steps taken by the enquirer involves sending a Larke v Nugus request to the will writer. This is usually in the form of a letter posing a series of questions about the preparation and execution of the will. A copy of the will file may also be requested. This allows for an early investigation, so as to assess whether a successful challenge against the will might be made.
The principle stems from the case of Larke v Nugus (1979) 123 Sol Jo 337, later reported in  WTLR 1033, where the validity of a will was challenged on the grounds of undue influence. The claimants asked the will writer a number of times for information around the preparation of the will, but this was not provided. The Court of Appeal held that the parties should make every effort to prevent the costs of unnecessary litigation, and pointed out that this could have been avoided in the present case if evidence relating to the preparation of the will had been provided. The case confirmed the action that should be taken when enquiries surrounding the preparation and execution of the will are made.
There is no duty to comply with a request unless a court order is obtained. Furthermore, the will writer will need to get the executor’s permission to release the confidential information. However, if a will writer fails to respond to a Larke v Nugus request, and the dispute ends up before the Court, it may result in the will writer being at risk to an adverse costs order. Will writer’s can therefore normally be persuaded to cooperate with any such request.
A Larke v Nugus request can be a helpful tool in helping the enquirer evaluate the merits of disputing a will early on, without incurring excessive legal costs. It is important that the correct questions are raised and that the request is tailored to the matter in hand as this can be crucial in bringing a successful claim.
If you require advice on how to deal with a potential will dispute, please contact one of the members of our contentious probate team.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*