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Insane Delusion

While most people should be very familiar with the law relating to testamentary capacity there is another m e n t a l condition which can affect whether a Will, or a specific part of a Will, can be deemed to be invalid. The concept of ‘insane delusion’ was first recognised in 1826 when a case was brought by a disinherited daughter who had been omitted from her father’s Will. In Dew v Clark the Court heard that her father believed she was ‘the devil incarnate’ and his 1818 Will failed to leave her any of his estate. The daughter produced evidence that she was well known for her kind nature and that her father had falsely told others that he had lavished his daughter with praise and wealth during his lifetime. The court found that the father had full capacity in all other respects and that his thoughts about her resulted from a ‘partial insanity’. Insane delusion is distinct from testamentary capacity and may relate to only a particular gift or omission in a Will and does not, in many cases, cause the entire Will to fail, unless the delusion affected all the provisions in the Will. Further examples of the condition have been found in American cases. In 1854 the case of Addington v Wilson involved a father who disinherited his daughters as he believed that they were witches. This reason alone did not deem him incapable of making a Will. A delusion can lead the testator to deny the existence of potential beneficiaries. In Re Robertson’s Estate [1948] the testator declared that he had no children in his Will when he had two living children. The Court in Oklahoma found that he had been suffering from an insane delusion as there was no rational basis to declare that he had no children. Where a testator wishes to exclude potential beneficiaries from inheriting their estate a specific exclusion clause in recommended along with an explanatory letter to the executors detailing the reasons for the exclusion should the Will be challenged. This should be stored with the Will itself

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