Vulnerable woman's will upheld despite daughter's challenge
The High Court has upheld a vulnerable woman’s will and rejected a claim by her daughter that she had been subjected to undue influence.
The case involved two sisters, Teresa Ann Coles and Heather Christine Reynolds.
In 2002, their mother made a will leaving her estate to be divided equally between them. However, the relationship between the two sisters deteriorated in 2009.
In 2012, the mother made another will appointing Reynolds as sole executrix and beneficiary. She moved into a care home and died in 2013.
Coles brought an action to revoke a grant of probate made in favour of Reynolds.
She submitted that the 2012 will was brought about by her sister's undue influence and that their mother did not know or approve of the contents of the will.
The High Court rejected the claim. It held that although Reynolds had assisted her mother in obtaining the services of solicitors, they had interviewed the mother on her own and she had given a contemporaneous statement explaining that she had not seen Coles for over a year.
She added that Coles had shown no interest in her for several years and she wanted Reynolds to benefit from her estate.
The solicitors’ attendance notes made it clear that the mother knew and approved of the will's contents and it had been read over to her and signed in Reynolds’ absence. The will represented the mother's testamentary wishes.
Although she was frail and vulnerable, her mental capacity was unchallenged. There was no credible evidence of financial abuse or that she had been forced to attend the appointment to execute the will or sign the contemporaneous statement.
Please contact Jonathan King or Benedict Smith if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of wills and probate.