The High Court has praised the “ingenious arrangement” of witnessing a will through a car window in the early days of the pandemic.
His Honour Judge Tindal, sitting as a High Court judge in Birmingham, upheld the validity of the will being disputed.
He found that the 90-year-old testator had the mental capacity to make the will and several in the preceding years despite a diagnosis of dementia.
The “sadly messy state” of his affairs was instead down to “his capacious, if harsh, decisions”, the judge said.
In all, Stanley – the judge did not give the family’s surname, as one of his children had not participated in the litigation despite being cut out of the final will – made six wills in a decade, with members of his family “shifting in and out of inheritance”.
HHJ Tindal held that Stanley had testamentary capacity from the 2010 will, a year after being diagnosed with dementia, to the final one on 23 May 2020.
His daughter arranged for two friends of hers who knew Stanley to come to the driveway of Stanley’s house.
“He stayed in the car and they saw him sign the will through the window, which he then passed to them and they each witnessed,” the judge recounted.
“This was an ingenious arrangement which predated the amendment to the Wills Act permitting ‘remote attestation’. In any event, it was a valid execution.
“Whilst the will was not read over to Stanley, [his solicitor] sent it to him with a clear client-care letter and Stanley signed the acknowledgement slip…
“Stanley was plainly very familiar and happy with it – after all, he had plenty of practice with wills.”
He died less than three months later and HHJ Tindal held that the will was valid and superseded all previous wills, admitting it to probate.
Before the Wills Act was amended, law firms looked for ways to execute wills validly amidst a spike in demand due to the pandemic. We reported on one firm in Wiltshire that promoted a ‘Wills through a window’ service.