Home Information Cases In the matter of the estate of Winifred Victoria Edwards (2007)

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In the matter of the estate of Winifred Victoria Edwards (2007)

Summary

The last will of the deceased was made under undue influence where the deceased's son and sole beneficiary of the will had poisoned the deceased's mind against the beneficiaries of the original will by making untruthful accusations against them, causing the deceased to change her will in his favour.

Facts

The claimant (J) claimed that the last will of his deceased mother (E) had been changed by undue influence. E had three sons, R, T and J. She had made a will that effectively left the residue of her estate following a legacy to J's son to R, T and J in equal shares. T and R lived with E at her house, and J lived nearby with his wife. T was a heavy drinker, and E was often afraid of him especially when he had been drinking. By contrast, E had a very good relationship with J and his wife, and J's wife did E's washing and shopping and cooked a weekly meal. E had also added J's wife as a signatory on her bank account. R died and E was staying with J and his wife when she suffered a fall and was admitted to hospital. During her stay E signed a letter drafted by J's wife that gave the couple permission to enter E's house and called for the removal of T from the property, even though T now believed the house to be his property following R's death. After a visit by friends of T, E was left upset and said that she no longer wished to have T evicted. She also declared that instead of going home on her discharge, she wanted to go to a nursing home. J and his wife had wanted to take E home with them, but T objected to it. It was finally agreed that E would have a two week trial at a nursing home. On the day following E's admission to the nursing home, T visited her, and claimed that she was unhappy and wanted to leave. J and his wife visited E later in the day, but T took her home against medical advice. Due to no fault of their own, J and his wife were then prevented from visiting E. During this time, a solicitor was called for E with a view to making a new will. The solicitor came to E's house and E told him that she wanted to leave everything to T as he did everything for her. E had full testamentary capacity.

Held

T had every motive for persuading E to alter her will. He was furious with J and his wife for the part they played in helping E to write the letter that threatened to evict him. T also feared for his security in the property. He had been advised that the property was not his, and would only be so at the request of E, and he was worried that J might try to turn him out from the property. The way for T to secure his future in the house was to get E to change her will. T also had the opportunity to use undue influence in persuading E to change her mind. T had removed her from the nursing home despite medical advice to the contrary, and taken her back to the property, where J and his wife had been deterred from visiting. T had continued to drink, was aggressive and verbally abusive and E was frightened of him. Evidence of T's influence was seen by E's subsequent false allegations against J and his wife, that they put her in a nursing home to die, when the truth was that J and his wife had wanted E to go home with them. Further, in giving reasons for changing her will, E had told the solicitor that T fully looked after her, when the reality was that J's wife did E's washing, shopping and cooked a weekly meal. T deliberately poisoned E's mind by making untruthful accusations against J and his wife with the effect of causing E's discretion and judgment to be overborne. In changing her will E was simply doing as she was told. That amounted to undue influence and the original will was pronounced in favour of the new one.

Judgment for claimant

Chancery Division
Lewison J
Judgment date
3 May 2007
References

LTL 11/5/2007