Landmark Judgment: Langley v Qin undue influence case

The Central London County Court has delivered its verdict in the case of Langley v Qin, a matter revolving around alleged predatory marriage.

This case, notable for being among the first to follow the precedent set by the England and Wales Court of Appeal’s decision in Rea v Rea (2024 EWCA Civ 169), sheds light on the complexities surrounding undue influence in testamentary matters.

The crux of the dispute lay in the marriage of 93-year-old widower Robert Harrington to his 54-year-old carer, Guixiang Qin, followed by the execution of a new will favouring Qin and excluding Harrington’s daughter, Jill Langley. Langley contested the will on grounds of lack of testamentary capacity, lack of knowledge and approval, and undue influence.

Ultimately, the court ruled in favour of Langley, setting aside the will on multiple grounds. Citing medical evidence, the court acknowledged Harrington’s paranoid delusional disorder, which influenced his fixed false beliefs, including estrangement from Langley and fabricated allegations against her.

The court expressed scepticism regarding Harrington’s comprehension of the will’s contents and raised concerns over the absence of oral evidence from the solicitors involved in drafting the document. It highlighted Qin’s pervasive influence over Harrington’s financial affairs, including her involvement in selecting a compliant firm to facilitate the will.

The court uncovered financial irregularities, noting Qin’s substantial withdrawals totalling over £230,000 from Harrington’s accounts pre and post-mortem, with no declaration to HMRC as required for lifetime transfers during probate.

In a consequential decision, the court awarded Langley indemnity costs against Qin. However, it was unable to annul the marriage posthumously. Under the laws of intestacy, Qin stands to inherit a fixed net sum of £270,000 plus half of Harrington’s remaining estate.

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