Stephanie Ewan, Associate Solicitor in the Contentious Probate team at Myerson, together with Tom Gosling at 23 Essex Street Chambers, acted for the successful claimant, Laura Smith, in the unreported case of Smith v Ganning (PT-2021-MAN-000074).

A copy of the transcript has recently been received.


Laura’s mother, Alison, allegedly signed a Will shortly before her death leaving her entire estate to her husband, Michael Ganning. The Will was made without any professional involvement from a solicitor and was in a form often referred to as a “homemade Will”. It appointed Mr Ganning as the sole executor. The Will was purportedly witnessed by two people present at the same time which is a requirement of section 9 of the Wills Act 1837.

Following Alison’s death, Laura was informed that the Will had not been properly witnessed and that it had, instead, been signed in the presence of only one witness (and Mr Ganning). If correct, the Will was invalid, and Alison’s estate would pass under the intestacy rules to Mr Ganning, Laura, and her brother.

Stephanie contacted both witnesses who confirmed Laura’s understanding to be correct. Proceedings were subsequently issued for:

  1. A declaration that the Will was indeed invalid.
  2. The Grant of Probate obtained by Mr Ganning be revoked.
  3. A new Grant of Letters of Administration be issued.

Mr Ganning, who acted in person, defended the claim throughout by maintaining that the Will had been properly signed in front of both witnesses.



A two-day trial took place on 10 - 11 March 2022 in the Business & Property Courts in Manchester.

One of the witnesses – Kathryne Weaver – gave evidence that she saw the Will being signed by Alison at The Christies together with Mr Ganning. The other witness – Dawn Wilson – confirmed that she signed the Will in Mr Ganning’s kitchen. Crucially, Alison, Ms Weaver and Ms Wilson were not all present together at the time the Will was signed by Alison

Another important piece of evidence which weighed against Mr Ganning was a recording of a telephone conversation Laura had made. In this call, he admitted that the witnesses were not present at the same time. The recording was heard in court with Mr Ganning claiming the conversation had been taken out of context and that he had instead been answering another question at the time.

Giving judgment on 11 March 2022, HHJ Halliwell found in Laura’s favour, stating that he believed the witnesses’ account of events over that submitted by Mr Ganning. As such, the Will was declared to be invalid and the Grant of Probate revoked. An independent administrator has since been appointed to deal with the estate administration.

Laura was very pleased with the outcome of the case and commented: 

I can’t thank you enough for all your help from you and your team. You made the process less stressful for myself under the circumstances. I’m very happy with the outcome in winning the case for me and putting things right for my mum. I cannot thank you and your team enough for everything you have done for me…. I know this is quite a complex case but I have every confidence in you and your team and would highly recommend yourselves. Thank you Stephanie for all your help and you have been a pleasure to work with.” 


Concluding thoughts

There are several points to be taken from this case, with the most important being that if you are preparing your own Will (or assisting someone else to do so), you must ensure that it is properly signed (executed). Wills are very important documents and there can be complications arising out of “homemade Wills”. We would always advise that professional help is sought to minimise the possibility of a challenge in the future. 

Secondly, if you agree to act as a witness to a Will, it is a reminder that this is an important role with responsibilities. For example, it can result in you having to give evidence in court should a dispute later arise. If you refuse to give evidence, you may find that a summons is issued by the Court which requires your attendance. It is certainly not a role that should be taken lightly.

Probate claims of this nature do not often reach as far as trial but, when they do, there is often some room for doubt. Unusually, this was not the case in the Smith v Ganning matter due to the clear and compelling evidence provided by both witnesses.  

If you have concerns about a Will, you can contact our team of specialists at 01619144000. Any questions about the decision in the case of Smith v Ganning can be directed to Stephanie Ewan on