Difficulties in proving undue influence in disputed estate cases

8th March 2024

The recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Rea -v- Rea, which overturned an earlier High Court decision, has emphasised the difficulties facing a party raising allegations that an individual was ‘unduly influenced’ in the preparation of their will.

In this case, a daughter had moved in with her mother to care for her until her death. In the mother’s will, the daughter was left the mother’s £1million London property. Her siblings were disinherited and claimed that their sister had pressured their mother into writing a will on those terms. Despite the High Court having found the daughter to be argumentative and have a forceful physical presence as well as personality, ultimately, a lack of direct evidence demonstrating that the mother was coerced led to the failure of the sibling’s claim.

The decision serves as a cautious reminder to those looking to pursue claims of undue influence and serves to further reinforce the high legal threshold which needs to met to succeed on such a claim. It is not sufficient to establish that an alleged influencer had the motive and means to influence the will maker, but it must be proven that they actually did. That is, in many cases, incredibly difficult.

If you suspect that someone has been unduly influenced or if you find yourself facing similar challenges contact our probate dispute specialists on 0161 832 3434.

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