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One reason why it is rarely advisable to represent yourself in litigation is that you need a good lawyer to tell you when you are wrong. That point could hardly have been more clearly made than by a case in which a widower claimed that his sister had made him a deathbed gift of her £900,000 home.
The sister’s substantial house represented almost the entirety of her wealth. She died without making a will and, ordinarily, her estate would have passed in three equal shares to her two brothers and the adult children of her deceased sister as her next of kin. However, the widower claimed that she had given him the house before her death and that it thus did not form part of her estate.
Representing himself before the High Court, he pointed out that he and his wife, now deceased, used to visit his sister regularly to assist with her shopping and care. Her health was failing and he claimed that she was contemplating her imminent death when she gave him the deeds to the house and told him that she wanted him to have it.
In rejecting the widower’s case, however, the Court noted that in 2012 he and his wife had insisted on his sister going into a nursing home, against her own wishes and those of all others involved in her care. In having the house registered in his name after his sister’s death, he had displayed an unwarranted sense of entitlement and a blinkered and shameless disregard for the rights of other members of her family.
The Court found that the alleged conversation with his sister on which he sought to rely had in fact never occurred. He had in any event come nowhere close to proving that she had at the time anticipated her death in the near future. His claim to have been the beneficiary of a deathbed gift was, frankly, hopeless.
Says Peter Critchell, “This case should never have been brought. It was without merit and had the man taken legal advice, he would have been urged to desist, thus avoiding the legal costs incurred by his family in opposing him in court, which will now fall on him.”