High Court Decision Reached in £1m Contested Will Claim
Posted Sep 30, 2019.
A recent decision from the High Court in London provides a reminder as to the importance of having an appropriate, up to date and well written will in making sure that when you pass away, your assets and estate will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
The case in question saw three brothers take their own sister to court following the death of their mother in July 2016. The brothers – David, Nino and Rimo Rea – had tried to overturn their mother Anna’s final will which had been written in 2015, replacing a previous will dating from 1986. In the newer will, Anna Rea made her daughter Rita the sole inheritor of her estate, in particular her home in South London valued at around £1m, whereas in the previous will her estate was going to be distributed equally between the four siblings.
The court heard how that, in the final years of her mother’s life, her daughter Rita had become her main and sole carer. Whilst acknowledging that their mother had always had a ‘soft spot’ for their sister, the three brothers claimed that Rita had ‘poisoned their mothers mind’ with lies, resulting in will being re written in 2015. However, the revised document included the statement that:
“I give my daughter my property absolutely as she has taken care of me for all these years…I declare that my sons do not help with my care and there have been numerous calls 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.”
Judge Johnathan Arkush upheld the 2015 will, rejecting the brother’s claims that their sister had exerted undue influence over their mother, commenting that despite her being a native Italian speaker, Anna Rea had sufficiently good English to fully understand the changes being made. He added:
“She had reached her own decision on the matter and her mind had not been poisoned by anyone…Mrs Rea's view of her sons may have been a somewhat harsh judgment but it was her own - not her daughter's.”
The decision means that Rita Rea is allowed to keep her mother’s home, whilst her brothers are left with small legacies which are likely to be used up as part of their mother’s funeral costs.
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