Siblings were mistakenly disinherited by their father because he couldn’t read his will

October 20th 2023

A recent High Court judgement found that three siblings were mistakenly disinherited by their  father because he couldn’t understand his own will. The siblings won their court fight for a share of his £700,000 fortune. 

Hope Dillon, Jo-Ann Morris, and Leonard Grizzle claimed their father had always struggled with reading, and couldn’t even read them bedtime stories when they were children. 

Proud father Kenneth Grizzle left nothing in his will for his three children, instead giving everything to his partner Theodora Richeford. Mr Grizzle had always told his children that if he were to die, he would like his partner to be able to live in his property for the remainder of her lifetime and then it was to pass to his children. His will, however, did not reflect this. 

One of the criteria for a valid will is that the testator knows the content of the will and approves it. The difficulty with an illiterate testator is that they cannot read a will, so it must be clear that the will was read to them, to enable them to approve its contents.

The trio successfully sued, claiming their father must have disinherited them by mistake, because he always intended that their former family home in east London would be theirs. Deputy Master Katherine MacQuail said that although Mr Grizzle’s literacy had improved over the years, he could not, without help, have understood the effect of the will he signed. There was no record of the will being read to Mr Grizzle, or that he understood its contents.

This case highlights that when a testator is illiterate it is important that records are kept to show how the will was explained and read to them, and how they demonstrated an understanding and approval of the will.

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Proud father Kenneth Grizzle had always struggled with reading