Allegations that people have been unduly influenced by others in making their wills are relatively common, but claims of actual fraud are far rarer. In one such case, a judge found that a daughter had poisoned her mother’s mind against her sister so that the latter was cut out of a very substantial inheritance.

The mother made a will just two days before her death, by which she appointed the daughter as her executor and trustee and bequeathed to her the entirety of her estate. The daughter asked a judge to pronounce in solemn form that the will was valid. Her sister resisted the application on the basis that the daughter was guilty of fraudulent calumny – falsely turning their mother against her.

In upholding the sister’s arguments, the judge found that it had been the mother’s intention to divide her assets roughly equally between her daughters. That had only changed after the daughter falsely accused her sister of a number of misdeeds, including stealing, or helping herself to, their mother’s assets and questioning her sanity. He found that the daughter was a thoroughly dishonest and manipulative witness to whom integrity and truth were less important than achieving what she wanted.

In refusing the daughter permission to appeal against that decision, the High Court noted that there was a very strong case that she had falsely persuaded her mother to think badly of her sister at a time when she knew that her mother was seriously ill and might not have long to live. There was cogent evidence that her fraudulent statements had induced her mother to cut the sister out of her estate. The judge was thus entitled to conclude that the will was invalid and that the mother had died intestate.

For further information on contentious and non-contentious probate matters, please speak to Kam Majevadia (contentious) k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk or Tracy Creed (non-contentious) t.creed@sydneymitchell.co.uk

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