Re Templeman deceased

Judge: High Court (Chancery Division (Fancourt J))

Citation: [2020] EWHC 632 Ch


In this case one of the children of the late Lord Templeman disputed the validity of his last will, made in 2008.

At that time, he was suffering from episodic memory problems but was otherwise mentally fit. It was contended that he had forgotten the terms of his earlier will and was operating under an illusion that two potential beneficiaries had been done a wrong that needed to be put right. This factual case was rejected (see paragraph 128 and 129 of the judgment) but the court went on to consider what the position would have been had that case been accepted.

At paragraphs 132 and 133 the court held as follows.

  1. Even if I had concluded that Lord Templeman had forgotten the terms of his 2004 codicil and/or the gift of Rock Bottom by Sheila when making his new will and was acting in the belief that a wrong had been done to Jane and Sarah that needed to be put right, I would still have held that he had testamentary capacity. The argument of the Defendants was put in two different but complementary ways. First, that because Lord Templeman could not recall the arrangement that had been deliberately made and the reasons for it, he could not sufficiently comprehend and appreciate the nature and extent of the claims on his estate: he could not appreciate that Jane and Sarah did not have a legitimate and substantial claim for provision under his will, whereas his own family did have. Second, that his mind was so prejudiced by an illusory belief that a wrong had been done to Jane and Sarah that had to be put right that he lacked a just appreciation of those claims.


  1. Comprehension and appreciation of the calls on a testator’s bounty does not require actual knowledge of other gifts that have been made to, or the financial circumstances of, a potential object. A testator does not have to have all the facts with which to make a correct or justifiable decision; he has to have the capacity to decide for himself between competing claims. That means that he must have the ability to inform himself about those claims, to the extent that he wishes to do so, but not that he must remember the relevant facts about each of the potential objects or have correctly understood their financial circumstances. Whether Jane and Sarah had a legitimate claim on him and if so to what extent, compared with his blood relations, was a matter for Lord Templeman, as long as he had the capacity to weigh the rival claims.

The emphasis, therefore, is on the capacity to understand and it is not necessary to show that the testator had all the facts in his mind so longs as he had the capacity so to do.

The result was, therefore, that the Lord Templeman’s last will stood and we should all bear in mind these words from the judgment.

  1. In such circumstances, Mummery LJ (with whom Patten LJ agreed) concluded in Hawes v Burgess [2013] EWCA Civ 94; [2013] WTLR 453 at [57] that it would be a “very strong thing” to conclude that a testator lacked testamentary capacity because he did not “comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect”. Mummery LJ continued at [60]:


  • “My concern is that the courts should not too readily upset, on the grounds of lack of mental capacity, a will that has been drafted by an experienced independent lawyer. If, as here, an experienced lawyer has been instructed and has formed the opinion from a meeting or meetings that the testatrix understands what she is doing, the will so drafted and executed should only be set aside on the clearest evidence of lack of mental capacity. The court should be cautious about acting on the basis of evidence of lack of capacity given by a medical expert after the event, particularly when that expert has neither met nor medically examined the testatrix, and particularly in circumstances when that expert accepts that the testatrix understood that she was making a will and also understood the extent of her property “


As others have observed, it is ironic that Lord Templeman had, himself, not followed his own Golden Rule as to the obtaining medical advice in the case of an “aged testator or testator who has suffered a serious illness.”  It is doubly ironic that this judgment reinforces that that ‘rule’ is a matter of practice, as opposed to a legal requirement.


CategoryMental capacity, Testamentary capacity Date


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