March 14, 2019

A rare successful undue influence case

In terms of challenging a Will, to succeed in a claim of “undue influence”, the courts have suggested that there must be no other explanation for the Will other than that the person in question was unduly influenced. This is a very high evidential burden to cross. It is particularly difficult, because most instances of undue pressure upon an elderly person take place behind closed doors and in circumstances where the “victim” has now died.

The Chin Family

The Chin family moved to the United Kingdom from Hong Kong in 1965 and settled in Essex. Mr and Mrs Chin established a successful restaurant business, which allowed them to amass a property portfolio with an estimated value of £3 million.

It has been reported that Mr Chin is a “traditionalist” and wished for the family’s entire fortune to pass to their only son, Winston. By contrast, Mrs Chin wished to leave something to her five daughters. In 2009 Mrs Chin made a Will, which divided her share in the family business equally between her six children. However, following constant arguments and pressure from Mr Chin, she was persuaded to make a further Will in 2011 cutting the daughters out and leaving everything to Winston.

It is understood that Winston was already wealthy and prior to Mrs Chin’s death in 2015, aged 82, the majority of the family’s assets had already been passed to Winston.

One of Mr and Mrs Chin’s daughters, Ivy, challenged the 2011 Will on the grounds that Mrs Chin was subject to undue influence from Mr Chin and/or Winston when executing the Will.

Judge Jarman QC found that the 2011 Will had been “procured by the undue influence of her husband and/or son”. Further that the Will “represented her husband’s wishes and not her own”. Therefore Judge Jarman QC overturned the 2011 Will in favour of the 2009 Will, meaning the daughters will now receive a share of their mother’s estate.

This case shows that despite a high level of evidence required, challenges to Wills on the ground of undue influence can succeed.

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