A recent ruling by the High Court determined that a claim brought by 3 sons for a share of their mother’s £1 million family home was unsuccessful.
Mrs Rea died in July 2016 at the age of 86 and in her final Will which she made in 2015, she left her South London home, which was her main asset and worth roughly £1 million, to her daughter Rita. It was found she had left a note with her Will which stated
‘My sons do not help with my care and there have been numerous calls for help 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. ‘Hence should any of my sons challenge my estate I wish my executors to defend any such claim, as they are not dependent on me and I do not wish for them to share in my estate save what I have stated in this will.’
It was found that her 2015 Will replaced an earlier Will in 1986 which had left her entire estate to be shared equally between her 4 children.
The sons who were written out of the mother’s Will, brought a claim on the basis that their sister had “poisoned” their mums mind by claiming the sons had abandoned their mother so that she would solely inherit the family home.
It was relevant that the 3 sons had only been left a very small legacy, which, after funeral expenses would leave them with nothing. On that basis, they had made an application to strike out the 2015 Will and reinstate the earlier Will made by their mother in 1986.
The Court held that there needed to be evidence to show that Rita had “poisoned her mother’s mind by casting a dishonest aspersion on their characters.” On hearing and considering the evidence before them, the Court found there was no evidence to show that Rita had “poisoned her mother’s mind,” rather the sons relied on inference and therefore their claim was unsuccessful. It was noted that Rita had provided extensive daily care to her mother whilst the contribution from her sons was very little. In September 2015 Nino and David (Mrs Rea’s sons) had set up a rota to help with their mother’s care but within a few weeks, it had collapsed.
It was found that Mrs Rea had always had a close relationship with her daughter and a “soft spot” for her. It was her daughter who had moved into the family home to solely care for her during the final years of her life after Mrs Rea had suffered a heart attack in 2009.
On hearing the evidence from Rita, it was found the brothers each had a key to the family home and were welcome to visit as and when they wished to. It was only until late 2015 or 2016 when her relationship with her brothers became strained that the locks were changed.
With regards to the brothers contesting the Will on the grounds of undue influences, it was held Mrs Rea was very strong minded and at the time she made her revised Will, it was clear she knew what she was doing. Whilst English was not her first language, she understood enough to know the implications the change in her Will would have. Therefore, her mind had not been influenced and she made the decision to write her sons out of her Will on her own accord.
This case highlights just how important it is as professional will writers to exercise caution where cases are likely to be contentious and ensuring that detailed attendance notes are kept with your file.