Cases involving disputed wills very often feature a Larke v Nugus statement. But what is a Larke v Nugus statement?
A Larke v Nugus statement is prepared by the solicitor who originally prepared the disputed will or witnessed its execution. These statements are frequently requested by the Claimant’s solicitor as evidence against the validity of a will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, want of knowledge or approval or forgery.
The name, Larke v Nugus, originates from a legal case that determined the law on requests for information regarding the circumstances surrounding the instruction and execution of a will [Larke v Nugus  WTLR 1033].
The starting position in relation to disclosure of information regarding a deceased's will is that the information should only be made available to the personal representatives of the estate (or to others with their consent) prior to obtaining the Grant of Administration. However, this does not apply where a request for information is made to the Solicitor who prepared or witnessed the execution of the will and there is a dispute in relation to that will. In these circumstances the Law Society has recommended, since 1959, that the Solicitor should make a statement outlining the circumstances surrounding the instruction and execution of the will to any party to probate proceedings or someone who has a reasonable claim against the will. In 2000 the case of Larke v Nugus endorsed this long standing recommendation, which means that a request for information now carries judicial weight.
A request for a Larke v Nugus statement may seek some or all of the following information and documentation:
- How long the Solicitor had known the deceased;
- Who introduced the Solicitor to the deceased;
- The date the Solicitor received instructions from the deceased;
- Contemporaneous notes of all meetings and telephone calls, including confirmation of where the meeting took place and who else was present at the meeting;
- How the instructions were expressed;
- What indication the deceased gave that they knew they were making a will;
- Whether the deceased exhibited any signs of confusion, loss of memory or ill health;
- Whether and to what extent earlier wills were discussed and what attempts were made to discuss departures from the deceased's earlier will-making pattern; what reasons the testator gave for making any such departures;
- How the provisions of the will were explained to the deceased; and
- Who, apart from the attesting witnesses, were present at the execution of the will and where, when and how this took place.
Where we are asked to challenge the validity of a will drawn up or witnessed by a Solicitor we will usually ask the Solicitor's firm to provide us with a copy of their file relating to the will, together with a Larke v Nugus statement dealing with all the issues listed above. This will often be very helpful in determining the strength of a validity claim. It will often indicate whether the deceased was advised correctly by the Solicitor, whether there were individuals present at instruction/execution to support allegations of undue influence and whether the Solicitor undertook the correct test for testamentary capacity.
If you require further guidance on what a Larke v Nugus statement is or how to go about obtaining one then contact us on 0808 139 1599 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org