Lisa Marie, the only daughter of Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley, sadly passed away on 12 January 2023.

Since her daughter's death, Priscilla Presley has filed a lawsuit disputing the validity of Lisa Marie's Will. The contentious probate dispute particularly concerns an amendment made to her Will in 2016. The amendment in question removed Priscilla and former business manager Barry Siegel as the trustee of Lisa Marie's estate and replaced them with two of her children, Riley Keough and Benjamin Keough.

According to Priscilla's legal team, there are concerns concerning the authenticity of the Will. It is suggested that the document misspelt her mother's name and contained a signature that appeared inconsistent with her usual signature. In addition, the 2016 amendment was not witnessed or notarised, and according to court documents, the original has yet to be located. A hearing has been scheduled for 13 April 2023.

Whilst the Presley matter is being handled in the USA, under the law of England and Wales, it is also possible to contest the validity of a deceased's Will.

Priscilla Presley contests the validity of Lisa Marie's Will

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Who can contest the validity of a Will?

A Will can be challenged if the claimant can show that they have an "interest" in the deceased's estate. An interest arises if a person will benefit because they have a bloodline to the deceased or if they were named in a previous Will.

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What happens if a Will validity claim is successful?

Suppose you are successful in challenging the validity of the Deceased's Will. In that case, their current Will will be 'set aside', and the Deceased's estate will pass either following a previous Will or intestacy rules.

If you would like further information on how the intestacy rules may affect your situation, our Contentious Probate lawyers can help. 

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What reasons are there to challenge the validity of a Will?

1. A Will that is not properly witnessed 

Under section 9 Wills Act 1837, certain requirements must be present for a Will to have been validly signed. The Will must be in writing and must have been signed by the person (known as a testator) making the Will in the presence of two witnesses present at the same time, or the testator must acknowledge their signature in front of two witnesses present at the same time.

2. Lack of testamentary capacity

A testator must:

  1. Understand that they are making a Will;
  2. Have some understanding of the nature and value of their estate and assets;
  3. Be aware of the persons they would usually be expected to provide for and potential claims that could be brought; and
  4. Be sound of mind and free from any delusions that would affect how they distribute their estate.

If, at the time the Will was made, the testator can be shown to fail one of the above tests; you may be able to challenge their Will based on lack of capacity. The starting point for claims of this nature is normally a full review of evidence and the Deceased's medical records.

Lack of testamentary capacity

3. Fraud or forgery 

Fraud and forgery are very rare reasons to challenge a Will's validity. It will be interesting to see how Priscilla Presley's case develops as her lawyers have alleged that Lisa Marie's Will was amended due to fraud or forgery being present. In the UK, forgery claims usually need to be accompanied by clear evidence, often requiring a handwriting expert's report and compelling evidence.

4. Undue influence 

Coercion is required for a claim of undue influence to succeed. This means that there must be evidence that the testator was influenced to make a Will in terms that they would not have otherwise made. Claims under this category are notoriously difficult to prove, and the court requires strong evidence to demonstrate not only persuasion but actual undue influence.

5. Lack of knowledge and approval 

The testator must have known they were making a Will and approved its contents. Whilst similar to a lack of testamentary capacity, a testator may have the required mental capacity, but they were not fully aware of the full extent of the contents of their Will. Again, the court requires strong evidence of this ground, usually found in the Will Draftsman's notes or file.

It is possible to challenge the validity of a Will on more than one of the grounds mentioned above. If you would like further information about how we may help you challenge the validity of a Will or defend a Will validity claim that's been brought against an estate which affects you, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Contentious Probate team today.

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