Will Dispute Case Update – Schomberg v Taylor (2013)

18 January, 2013
by: Cripps Pemberton Greenish

This is an interesting case involving challenging a Will on the basis of undue influence.

The deceased’s step children (“the step children”) alleged that her last Will, which was made in 2008 (“the 2008 Will”), had been obtained through undue influence from P, who was the father of the main beneficiaries under the 2008 Will.

Under the previous Will, made in 2005 (“the 2005 Will”), the step children were equally entitled to the residuary estate while, under the 2008 Will, their entitlement was to legacies of £10,000 each.

It was not alleged that the deceased lacked testamentary capacity. Instead, it was claimed that the deceased was physically and mentally frail following the death of her husband and that P had pressured her into making the 2008 Will and that this pressure overwhelmed the deceased’s wishes with the effect that she did what P wanted in order to lead a quiet life.

Evidence was given from the deceased’s husband’s former personal assistant that the deceased had told her not to put any calls from P through to her as he had been calling her urging her to disinherit the step children in preference to his own children and that P had therefore called when he knew he could get through directly to D.

In order to successfully challenge the Will, the step children had to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that the deceased’s will was overborne by P’s coercion in executing the 2008 Will.

The Court held that, after the death of her husband, the deceased was in a fragile mental and physical state and that there was clear evidence that P had subjected her to persistent pressure.

It was also held that P had worn down the deceased and that she was prepared to do what P suggested in order to have a quiet life.

The Court found no obvious explanation as to why the step children should have been virtually excluded from the 2008 Will when, under the 2005 Will, provision had been made for them to take the residuary estate equally.

Furthermore, P had a motive to coerce the deceased as, not only did his children benefit, but he had his own financial difficulties following the collapse of a bank with which he had invested.

Taking these factors into account, the Court found that the 2008 Will did not reflect the deceased’s true wishes and pronounced in favour of the 2005 Will.

Click here for Westlaw case summary

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