Posted by Calum Campbell, Senior Associate
Fraud, theft, imaginary dogs and undue influence
It is very difficult to prove that a person was subjected to undue influence when making their Will. However, in a recent case a daughter successfully proved that the reason she was removed from her mother’s Will was due to the false allegations that had been made by her sister to her mother.
The case involved a dispute between two sisters concerning the validity of their mother’s last Will. The mother, Agni, made a new Will shortly before her death which excluded her eldest daughter, Andre, to the benefit of her younger daughter, Niki.
False claims leading to undue influence
Andre’s case claimed that Niki had poisoned her mother’s affections against her by making various false statements. These included allegations that Andre had stolen significant sums of her mother’s money, and had said her mother was losing her sanity. Niki denied that she had made any allegations about Andre to her mother, at least any which she did not honestly believe to be true.
The judge found that Andre’s involvement with her mother’s finances, which led to the allegations from Niki, was not inappropriate. In fact, in the opinion of the judge, Andre had only tried to protect her mother’s financial position. The judge also found that Niki’s suggestion to her mother that Andre believed she was losing her sanity as a result of seeing ‘imaginary dogs’, was actually a dishonest misrepresentation of Andre’s genuine concerns. Details emerged which showed that Andre’s comments followed a consultation with Angi and her doctor, during which the doctor had raised concern that Angi was suffering with a condition affecting her eyesight.
The judge also found that the evidence from the witnesses indicated that Agni had made her Will in the mistaken belief that excluding Andre would lead to equality between her daughters, due to the money that Andre had allegedly stolen. As a result, the judge agreed that the terms of the Will were brought about by Niki’s false statements to her mother and found in favour of Andre.
Evidence is key
It remains the case that undue influence cases will be difficult to prove and will rely heavily on witness evidence. In this particular case eight days were needed to hear all of the relevant evidence in court. This and previous cases confirm that a claim in relation to undue influence is more likely to be successful where evidence can be produced of fraudulent misrepresentations having affected the mind of the person making the Will.
If you need advice about contesting or defending a claim against a Will, contact our specialist Inheritance & Trust Dispute team
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