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Cases > Subject : Bias or LPA cases - all or Testamentary capacity cases or Welfare benefits cases

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Page name Sentence Summary
Clitheroe v Bond (2020) EWHC 1185 (Ch)

Testamentary capacity

"This is a bitter family dispute between the Claimant brother and Defendant sister as to whether their mother, the deceased, had testamentary capacity to make each of her two wills and in addition or in the alternative whether either or both wills resulted from fraudulent calumny."

DB (as executor of the estate of OE) v SSWP (2018) UKUT 46 (AAC)

Social security appointeeship

"The main grievance of Mr B, who brings this appeal in his capacity as executor of his late Aunt Miss E’s estate, is the Secretary of State’s decision to make Birmingham City Council Miss E’s social security appointee. When the council were made Miss E’s appointee, Mr B held an enduring power of attorney authorising him to deal with her financial affairs. Appointment decisions do not attract a right of appeal to the First-tier Tribunal. Neither that tribunal, nor the Upper Tribunal, has jurisdiction to entertain an ‘appeal’ against an appointment decision. However, I do have some concerns about the way in which the council’s appointment application was handled. I decide to express some views on that subject. My purpose in simply to provide some assistance to the DWP and local authorities in their efforts to operate the appointee system effectively and properly."

James v James (2018) EWHC 43 (Ch)

Banks v Goodfellow test for testamentary capacity survives MCA

"There is a preliminary question of law as to the test to be applied for testamentary capacity in a case like this, where the testator has made a will, died, and then the question of capacity has arisen. The traditional test for such a case is that laid down in Banks v Goodfellow (1870) LR 5 QB 549, 565, per Cockburn CJ: 'It is essential … that a testator shall understand the nature of his act and its effects; shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing; shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect, and, with a view to the latter object, that no disorder of the mind shall poison his affections, avert his sense of right, or prevent the exercise of his natural faculties, that no insane delusion shall influence his will in disposing of his property and bring about a disposal of it which, if his mind had been sound, would not have been made.' ... More recently the Mental Capacity Act 2005 has made fresh provision for the law of mental capacity in certain situations. What is unfortunately not made express in that legislation is the extent to which this fresh provision affects the test for capacity to make a will when that question is being judged retrospectively (typically, though not necessarily, post mortem). ... The general rule of precedent, as applied in the High Court, is that that court is not strictly bound by decisions of co-ordinate jurisdiction, but will follow them as a matter of comity unless convinced they are wrong ... As it happens, I think the decision in Walker v Badmin [2014] EWHC 71 (Ch)Not on Bailii! [that the test in Banks v Goodfellow not only had survived the enactment of the 2005 Act, but that it, rather than anything in the Act, was still the sole test of capacity for judging will-making capacity in retrospect] is right, and for the reasons given by the deputy judge. ... Whilst it is a complication to have two tests for mental capacity in making wills, one prospective and the other retrospective, it is a complication created by the decision of Parliament to legislate as it has, a decision that the courts must respect."

JG v Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (2019) UKUT 187 (AAC)

Non-legal research by judge

Judicial summary from gov.uk website: "Mental Health First-tier Tribunal - Judicial Bias - Apparent bias - Breach of Natural Justice - Procedural Irregularity. Where a First-tier Tribunal judge undertook non-legal research by accessing a court of appeal judgment in respect of the appellant, did this lead to a presumption of bias and automatic disqualification? Did it lead to a conclusion of a real possibility of bias? Whether so doing amounts to a procedural irregularity leading to a breach of natural justice in that it rendered the hearing unfair. In the circumstances appertaining there can be no presumption of bias leading to automatic disqualification. On the facts of the case there was no real possibility of bias. Undertaking the non-legal research was a procedural irregularity but on the facts the hearing was not unfair."

Parsonage v Parsonage (2019) EWHC 2362 (Ch)

Validity of will

" The validity of the 2011 Will is challenged by D1 on the grounds that BP lacked capacity (1) to know and understand the nature and effect of the 2011 Will, (2) to know and understand the size of her estate, and/or (3) to know and appreciate the claims to which she ought to give effect. The underlying factual basis of the challenge is the severity or extent of BP's dementia and the circumstances in which the 2011 Will was prepared and executed."

Public Guardian v DA (2018) EWCOP 26

LPA wording - euthanasia and multiple attorneys

"This judgment concerns two test cases brought by the Public Guardian, by applications made under s.23 and Schedule 1 paragraph 11 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, regarding the validity of words in lasting powers of attorney ('LPAs'). The first concerns words relating to euthanasia or assisted suicide, whereas the second concerns words as to the appointment of multiple attorneys. Although the substance of the issues to which the words are directed is very different in the two cases, there is considerable overlap in the legal argument, the active parties were the same in the two sets of proceedings (the Public Guardian and the Official Solicitor) represented by the same counsel, and it is convenient to consider both cases in one judgment."

Re BGO: Office of the Public Guardian v PGO (2019) EWCOP 13

LPA witnessed by attorney

"Some time later one of the financial institutions to which the registered property and affairs LPA was sent noticed that BGO’s signature on the instrument had been witnessed by one of the attorneys (MAB), which is contrary to the requirements of Regulations. ... The Public Guardian applied to the Court for a determination as to whether or not the requirements for creation of an LPA were met, and directions as to whether the Public Guardian should cancel the registration of the instrument. ... The wording of paragraph 18 of Schedule 1 is mandatory. Because the requirements of execution have not been met, I must direct the Public Guardian to cancel the registration of BGO’s LPAs. ... For many donors, the failure of their LPA because of a defect in execution can be overcome by the relatively simple step of granting fresh powers, taking care to ensure that the requirements are met – an irritation perhaps and an expense but not an insurmountable hurdle. However, that option is not open to BGO. Sadly, before this defect was identified, BGO’s capacity had deteriorated to the point where she is unable to execute fresh LPAs. ... In the absence of attorneys to manage her property and affairs, the Court may appoint a deputy or deputies. ... In respect of health and welfare, the Court may also appoint a deputy or deputies if considered appropriate, although it does so much more rarely. However, pursuant to section 20(5) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a deputy cannot be given powers to refuse consent to the carrying out or continuation of life-sustaining treatment. In her welfare instrument, BGO had ticked the box to confirm that she wanted to give her attorneys this power. On the failure of her LPA, there is no means for the Court to give effect to her wishes in this respect. ... The Respondents are invited to make an application for appointment as property and affairs deputies for BGO. ... If the Respondents, or any of them, seek the appointment of a welfare deputy or deputies for BGO, they should also file at Court within 28 days a COP24 statement which sets out any welfare issues which require decisions to be made, why (having regard to s5 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005) an order is needed and why (having regard to section 16(4) of the Act) the decisions should be taken by a deputy rather than the Court."

Re M: A v Z (2018) EWCOP 4

COP bias

"This matter concerns an appeal from the order of HHJ Roberts made on 18 July 2018 in Court of Protection (COP) proceedings concerning M. The appellants are M's mother and father in law who have the care of X, M's son age 12. ... Mr Simblet relies on four grounds of appeal: (1) There was apparent bias, in that the judge stated her intention in the exchange between the judge and the legal representatives, in the absence of the parties, to decide the application consistent with decisions made in different proceedings. (2) The judge wrongly felt constrained to reach a decision that would be consistent with a decision she had reached in different proceedings. (3) There was a material irregularity, in that the Judge took into account material from different proceedings, and the [paternal grandparents] within the COP proceedings were unable to properly know the case against them or that they had to meet. (4) In reaching her decision the judge failed to identify or give sufficient weight to factors that were relevant to M's best interests."

Todd v Parsons (2019) EWHC 3366 (Ch)

Testamentary capacity

"The claim was opposed by the third defendant, challenging that will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, want of knowledge and approval and undue influence. ... The traditional test for capacity is that laid down in Banks v Goodfellow (1870) LR 5 QB 549 ... In James v James [2018] WTLR 1313, I held that the traditional test still applied, and had not been replaced by that contained in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. Neither party argued before me that the test should now be that contained in the 2005 Act, although the third defendant reserved the right to argue otherwise on appeal. ... In my judgment the 2008 will is valid."

Whittaker v Hancock & Ors (2018) EWHC 3478 (Ch)

LPA attorney as substituted personal representative

"The claimant has brought a claim under section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 to be appointed as substitute personal representative of the estate of John Parker in place of the second defendant, her mother, and for a caveat entered by the third defendant on 20 July 2016 to be removed. ... The third defendant is the deceased's daughter and opposes the claim. ... In a statement accompanying the Will, signed by the deceased and witnessed by a legal secretary the deceased explains that he has made no provision for the third defendant ... On 20 July 2016 the third defendant caused a caveat to be entered. She subsequently entered an appearance to the claimant's warning asserting that the 2003 Will may be invalid due to the deceased lacking testamentary capacity, being subject to undue influence and want of knowledge and approval. ... Mr Devereux-Cooke submits that I should make an order appointing the claimant as substitute personal representative for the second defendant. The claimant is the attorney for the second defendant, the LPA having been registered on 16 January 2014. The second defendant cannot consent to the claim as she lacks capacity. The first defendant does not oppose the claim. ... It is a general LPA in respect of property and financial affairs that is in wide terms enabling the claimant, as attorney, to make decisions about the second defendant's property and financial affairs. There are no conditions or restrictions specified in the instrument. ... It is also relevant that the second defendant is the sole beneficiary under the 2003 will. She is in a different position to a case where there are a number of beneficiaries. ... I accept Mr Devereux-Cooke's analysis that the claimant has standing to bring this claim under section 50. If I am wrong in my analysis I consider that the position could be remedied by adding the second defendant as a claimant and appointing the current claimant as her litigation friend. I also accept Mr Devereux-Cooke's analysis of rules 31 and 35 of the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 and would have been prepared to treat the claim as including this as an alternative legal route, had it been necessary. ... I consider that in order for the deceased's estate to be administered it is necessary to substitute the claimant as personal representative in place of the second defendant."

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