• April 12, 2024
 Will struck out for undue influence is restored on appeal at EWCA

Will struck out for undue influence is restored on appeal at EWCA

In a recent development within a prolonged legal battle, the Court of Appeal in England and Wales has overturned a High Court ruling from August 2023 regarding the contentious will of Anna Rea, who passed away in 2016. This marks the latest chapter in a series of lawsuits involving Rea’s estate, which began after her death at the age of 85.

The dispute centres around Rea’s last will, made in 2015, which bequeathed her most significant asset, her house, to her daughter Rita Rea, while her three sons were only granted a quarter share of the remaining estate each. The sons contested the will, claiming their mother lacked the mental capacity to make such a decision, was under undue influence by Rita, and accused her of fraudulent manipulation. They advocated for a 1986 will to take precedence, which presumably offered them a more favourable division of assets.

After a series of legal challenges, including an initial trial and multiple appeals, the matter escalated to the Court of Appeal. The High Court had previously sided with the sons, citing concerns over undue influence and the reliability of Rita Rea’s testimony. However, the Appeal Court, led by Justices Moylan, Newey, and Arnold, unanimously disagreed with the High Court’s findings, particularly on the issue of undue influence.

In their judgment, the Appeal Court highlighted the absence of direct evidence pointing to coercion by Rita Rea. It was noted that despite her assertive personality and the potential motive to secure the property, there was convincing testimony from professionals who interacted with Anna Rea. These witnesses affirmed her mental capacity and consistent desire to leave her house to Rita, actions she took independently of her daughter’s presence.

The court further rationalised Anna Rea’s decision based on the care Rita had provided over the last six years of her life, contrasting this with the perceived neglect from her sons. This context, the judges argued, formed a logical basis for the 2015 will’s provisions.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal found the High Court had erred in its undue influence ruling and reinstated the 2015 will, directing that it be admitted to probate. This decision underscores the complexities of will disputes, especially concerning allegations of influence and the intentions of the deceased.

Katie Johnson, Digital Journalist, Today's Media

Digital Journalist, Today's Media Contact: katie.johnson@todaysmedia.co.uk LinkedIn