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Millionaire Inventor’s Estate Sparks a High Court Dispute

Dr Jack Leonard was an inventor and an engineer. He can be credited for the invention of the early foetal heart monitor and later trained as a helicopter pilot. Dr Leonard was incredibly successful in life.

Unfortunately, his estate which is worth approximately £5.4 million, is now the centre of a dispute between his children and stepchildren.


In 1958, Dr Leonard married his first wife Aubrey. Together they had four children Megan, Sara, Jonathan and Andrew (‘Children’). Sadly, Aubrey passed away in 1998.

Dr Leonard found love again and married his second wife Margaret in 1999. Margret had children from a previous relationship, Mark, Elizabeth and Melanie (‘Stepchildren’).

In 2007, Dr Leonard made a will, stipulating that Margaret was to inherit his share of their home and his residuary estate was to be split equally between his Children. However, in October 2015, Dr Leonard created a new will.

His new will left the property to Margaret and the residuary estate was placed in a trust for Margaret’s benefit, for the remainder of her life. Upon Margaret’s death, his estate would then be divided between the Children and Stepchildren, roughly in equal shares.

By the time that Margaret had passed away, stepdaughter Melanie was deceased and so her share would pass to her children.

The family are now embroiled in a dispute with the Children asserting that in 2015, Dr Leonard did not have testamentary capacity to make a will and therefore the will is invalid.

If the 2015 Will is invalid, the will made in 2007 would be deemed to be Dr Leonard’s true and valid will. The consequences of this would be that the Stepchildren do not inherit anything from Dr Leonard’s estate.

The 2015 Will 

One of the essential requirements for a will to be valid, is that the person making it (called the testator) must have testamentary capacity.

The legal test for testamentary capacity is that a testator must understand:

  • the nature of a will and its effects;
  • the extent of his or her property and assets;
  • the moral obligations that he or she ought to consider, such as whether one child should be preferred over other children because they have greater financial needs, or whether a spouse’s state of health needs to be catered for;
  • and have no disorder of the mind that perverts their sense of right or prevents the exercise of their natural faculties in disposing of their property by will.

Dr Leonard’s 2015 Will had been prepared by a tax advisor, who had no legal training or suitable will drafting experience. Unlike solicitors, the tax advisor did not undertake the standard precautions to make sure that Dr Leonard had testamentary capacity when he made his 2015 Will.

Children’s position

The Children have argued that Dr Leonard did not have testamentary capacity at the time he made his will, due to his dementia.

A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically result in a person lacking testamentary capacity, but precautions, such as a medical assessment, should be undertaken taken when the will instructions were taken and when the will was executed.

The Children have also stated that before the 2015 Will was created, Dr Leonard was exhibiting behaviours that caused them concern and the 2015 Will goes against his longstanding wish in that the Children would ultimately inherit his estate.

Stepchildren’s position

The Stepchildren have alleged that Dr Leonard had an “extraordinarily close, loving and devoted relationship” with Margaret and themselves, unlike Dr Leonard’s relationship with his own children which was distant.

The barrister representing the Stepchildren has therefore submitted to the High Court that the 2015 Will is rationale, reasonable and understandable and consequently, there is no reason to suspect that the will is invalid.

The Stepchildren’s barrister further added that Dr Leonard “did not cut out or exclude any of his own family, for whom he obviously had deep love”.

The Court’s decision

The Court has heard various and extensive evidence on the circumstances surrounding the creation of the 2015 Will.

Importantly, it is understood that the Court has not been presented with any evidence demonstrating that Dr Leonard had his 2015 Will explained to him. If the 2015 Will had not been read and explained to Dr Leonard, quite rightly a significant question before the Court is “did Dr Leonard understand the will”?

The Judge’s ruling on this complex and emotionally charged dispute took approximately 10 weeks to arrive, from the date of last hearing.

The Judge concluded that Dr Leonard did not have capacity to execute the 2015 Will, nor did he know of and approve of its contents. As such, the 2015 Will was declared invalid.

The Judge has not yet ruled on who will be responsible for the Children’s legal costs. This issue is yet to be determined. The usual rule is that the ‘loser pays the winner’s’ costs.

In this case, this would mean the Stepchildren should pay the Children’s costs.  Of course, in a case like this, terms such as ‘losers’ and ‘winners’ have different meanings than in everyday life.

Do you need advice?

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe a person’s will may be invalid, seeking specialist legal advice is essential and the earlier that legal professionals are involved in disputes, the better.

If you have any questions or would like any further information on the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact Morr & Co’s Contested Trusts and Probate team, who will be happy to help.



Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

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