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Profile: Wills and Estates
Experience and Expertise
William represents both claimants and defendants in contested probate claims and claims for family provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. William regularly acts for personal representatives and beneficiaries, including well-known charities, faced with challenges to wills said to be invalid by reason of want of capacity, want of knowledge and approval or undue influence.
William has considerable experience in the analysis of medical evidence concerning mental capacity of testators, donors and settlors – especially in cases concerning the capacity of elderly persons.
William also has expertise in disputes concerning the construction of wills, the conflict of laws in relation to testamentary succession, and the law relating to the administration of estates.
William’s practice in this field frequently overlaps with his trusts work, which is covered separately here.
William is recommended for Traditional Chancery and Real Estate Litigation by Chambers UK and for Commercial Litigation, Professional Negligence and Property Litigation by The Legal 500. Recent directory editorial includes:
- superb attention to detail and a charming manner with clients
- As an advocate he does not get distracted by difficult opponents and focuses on building and presenting
- the best possible case for the client
- head and shoulders above others of his year of call
- popular with clients and really takes the fight to the other side
- produces skeleton arguments that are very clear and show good analysis
- an advocate with a good, relaxed manner, he is firm but not unduly aggressive in court
- a born problem-solver with a loyal and diverse following
- lauded for being thoughtful and thorough
- an excellent lawyer and a strong and clever advocate
- very reliable and always delivers when he says he will
- a truly outstanding trial advocate.
Cases and Work of Note
Examples of recent cases in this area include:
- Vallee v Birchwood  EWHC 1449 (Ch): William Moffett appeared in the Court of Appeal on this case concerning a donatio mortis causa, a death-bed gift, made in respect of a house by handing over title deeds, by the donor to his daughter some 4 months before his death. William appeared for the ‘heir hunters’ who represented the interests of the donor’s relatives, who had been traced to the Ukraine. In addition to the unprecedented interval between gift and death, the case also considered the position where the donor had continued to live in the house during the whole of that interval;
- Acting in a long-running, high-value dispute concerning issues of capacity and undue influence affecting lifetime gifts (of houses, cars and cash) by a millionaire businessman to his secretary;
- Acting for the successful claimants seeking provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 in a ‘two families’ case. The claimants were the partner of the deceased and their adult daughter, whom the deceased had kept secret from his wife and sons, sharing his time between the two families;
- In Green v Montagu (Re the Duchy of Manchester Settlements)  EWHC 1856 (Ch),  W.T.L.R. 1341 William represented the successful defendants, children of the Duke of Manchester but the product of a bigamous marriage, in their claim to establish their status as legitimate issue. William co-wrote, with Tom Dumont (who represented the trustees) an article on this decision in the Trusts and Estates Law and Tax Journal December 2011, no.132 p.5;
- Acting for the claimant in successfully setting aside her late sister’s last will on the basis of want of capacity. The claimant, who was the closest living relative of the deceased, had been disinherited in the will but only as a result of a delusional belief held by the testatrix that the claimant was trying to kill her;
- Acting in various claims for the rectification of wills, and including associated professional negligence actions against the solicitors responsible for the errors in drafting or taking instruction;
- In Woodward v Taylor (2011) EWHC (ChD, Birmingham) William acted for the successful personal representative at trial of a claim seeking to set aside a considerable lifetime transfer by the deceased to her long-term partner (which had the effect of defeating the residuary gifts to charities) either on the basis that the transfer was repayable as a loan / resulting trust or, if a gift, was procured by undue influence (both of which alternative claims were upheld);
- Advising professional executors, appointed under an English will, of the estate of a wealthy individual that included property, moveable and immoveable, in several jurisdictions with conflicting wills made in two of those jurisdictions;
- William acted for the defendant executor and beneficiary in successfully resisting a claim for provision out of the estate brought by the wife of the deceased, but in circumstances of it being a ‘fossil’ marriage with many years of separation and estrangement between them;
- William acted for the successful beneficiaries seeking the replacement of executors on grounds of bias shown against the applicants and negligence in their administration of the assets of the estate (a large property portfolio).