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What is an insane delusion?

In the case of Re Clitheroe deceased a dispute arose in the estate of the late Jean Clitheroe which resulted in John Clitheroe arguing with his sister Susan Bond over the terms of their mother's will. Jean had completed two wills in 2010 and 2013 and arguments took place as to whether these wills were valid, which would have given the entire estate to John or whether they were invalid which would mean that John and Susan would inherit equally under the Intestacy Rules.

The relationship between Jean and her daughter Susan deteriorated after the death of her eldest daughter and John and Susan's eldest sister. Jean suffered significantly following the death of her daughter and took to her bed where she remained until her death. The relationship further deteriorated after the marriage of John.

The Court found that Susan was not responsible for the deterioration in her relationship with her mother as Jean had taken against her, despite attempts to reconcile, and was adamant that it was her daughter who had cut her out of her life, not the other way round.

In 2010 Jean prepared a will leaving her residuary estate to her son John. In 2013 a further will was made which appointed John as sole executor and leaving him the estate.

In making the 2010 will she stated that she was not giving Susan anything because she was a "shopaholic and would just fritter everything away" and said that "she is such a spendthrift" and that she would "just spend away her inheritance".

In 2013 Jean stated that she wanted to leave everything to John "as he does everything for her and nothing to her daughter". She provided further handwritten notes to her solicitor stating that she had not seen Susan since John's wedding and she had not seen Susan's daughter. She again repeated that Susan was a shopaholic and that if Jean was left with Susan she would "starve to death". She accused her daughter of stealing personal items from her and from the estate of her late daughter.

John wanted to prove that both wills were valid. Susan disputed their validity because she believed her mother lacked capacity to make them. She felt her mother suffered with a complex grief reaction from around the time of her sister's death which resulted in a continued affective disorder manifesting in depression and insane delusions regarding Susan together with a poisoning of her mind against her.

Jean was considered to be of very strong character and was described as strong willed and stubborn. There was nothing in medical records to suggest she was living with cognitive impairment. A clinician found she had capacity just before her death.

In psychiatry a delusion is defined as:-

a fixed false belief which is out of keeping with the person's social, cultural, educational, or religious background. A fixed false belief means that a person holds on to a belief in the face of strong evidence or argument that it is false. It is not sufficient to show that the belief is false but that the mind has adopted a belief which is out of keeping for that person's background and rigidly holds on to it, no matter what arguments are put against it. Delusions do not respond to reason. It is not possible to talk someone out of a delusion.

The Court decided that in order to establish whether a delusion exists the relevant false belief must be irrational and fixed in nature. it is not necessary to demonstrate that it would have been possible to reason the individual out of the belief. Evidence was considered and the Court supported Susan's claim. The wills were not proved by the Court and her estate was administered under the Intestacy Rules.

An insane delusion does not necessarily come with someone who has an issue with their capacity. it does not necessarily sit with someone who has mental health problems. We can all suffer from insane delusions where we completely believe something to be true, even when it is not, to the point that it poisons our mind against someone.

Drafting a will can be complicated and experience is often needed to consider issues like capacity and insane delusions. These are reasons that challenges can be made to wills but can easily be overcome by appropriate advice, support and evidence.

If you need help with drafting your will please give us a call on 01622 843729.

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