Mental Capacity Case - Meat-eating testator can leave his millions to the Vegetarian Society

24th March 2014

Private Client Law Blog, March 2014, Sarah Playforth

This case involves a millionaire who left 80% of his estate to the Vegetarian Society, despite not being a vegetarian.

In The Vegetarian Society v Jennifer Scott ([2013] EWHC 4097 (Ch)), the testator’s family challenged the Will on the basis that he lacked mental capacity. The challenge was unsuccessful. However, it would not be surprising to see the family appeal this decision.

The testator suffered from schizophrenia and logical thought disorder. The medical experts disagreed with each other about how these conditions affected him. This led the Court to look at the testator’s lifestyle in some detail.

Despite being a millionaire, he went about with shoes held together with string, cooked on a gas stove and slept in a sleeping bag on the sofa. The Court heard evidence that this was a ‘lifestyle choice’. He could smarten himself up when he wanted, for example when going to the bank to make his Will, and he was deemed to be pretty financially astute.

There was also evidence of him talking to himself a lot and writing ramblings in his old school geography book.  However, mental capacity is task and time-specific and this did not necessarily mean he had lacked capacity at the time he made the Will.

There is not a great deal of discussion by the Court about the fact that he left his money to the Vegetarian Society and yet ‘enjoyed sausages and an English cooked breakfast’.  This was not evidence in itself of lack of capacity.  If the testator had capacity, it followed that he had the freedom to do what he liked with his money.

As for leaving out his relatives, the judge concluded that the testator’s presence was no more than ‘tolerated’ by his family and even then only in the hope of inheriting from him. Therefore disinheriting was not illogical.

We will see if the family lets this lie.  Watch this space…

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