An interesting case took place in the UK last week.
Three brothers who were written out of their mother’s will after their sister was ‘the only one who cared for her in her final years’ lost their court battle for a share of their mother’s £1m home.
They took their sister to court claiming she had tricked their mother, Anna Rea, into making her the sole beneficiary of her £1million home in London.
Mrs Rea died aged 86. Her only daughter cared for her during the final years of her life. I
n her last will, made in 2015, she left her home — ‘her only effective asset’ — to her daughter alone.
That will replaced an earlier one which shared the estate equally between all four siblings. After Mrs Rea’s death, the brothers went to the High Court to challenge the will. They argued their sister had unduly influenced their mother and bad mouthed them to their mother before she signed the 2015 will.
They wanted the judge to declare the 2015 will invalid and resinstate the previous will. The judge examined the facts.
Mrs Rea declared in her December 2015 will: ‘I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years.
I declare that my sons do not help with my care and there have been numerous calls from me but they are not engaging with any help or assistance.
My sons have not taken care of me and my daughter Rita has been my sole carer for many years.’
The judge could find no evidence of undue influence and found Mrs Rea to be a strong-minded woman who knew exactly what she was doing when she made the will.
The judge rejected claims that her daughter had exerted undue influence over the mother.
The judge was satisfied that Mrs Rea reached the decision on her own.
He stated: ‘It is not my task to decide whether the 2015 will was justified or fair. I am only required to decide if it is valid.’ He added that Mrs Rea’s view of her sons for not caring for her in her latter years may be seen by some as harsh but it was Mrs Rea’s view and not her daughter’s.
There are a few grounds upon which a will may be challenged but just because a will might be viewed as being unfair by some is not in itself a ground to challenge a will and a judge’s role is not to decide on fairness only whether a will is valid in such instances.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’.
Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing, probate and family law.