How to defend an undue influence claim

We don’t just pursue claims at, we also defend them.  We are often able to defend contested Wills on a No Win, No Fee basis and you can find further information about funding here. In this article contentious probate partner Naomi Ireson looks at a recent court case that provides useful insights on how to defend an undue influence claim.

The long-fought battle between the children of Anna Rea concluded in February 2024 when the Court of Appeal found in favour of the daughter, Rita.

Anna Rea died at the age of 85 in 2016. By her last Will, she left her main asset, her property, to Rita who had lived with her and had been her primary carer since 2009. She left one quarter of her residuary estate to each of her three sons.

Her three sons issued a claim to challenge the validity of the Will on the basis of undue influence by Rita, as well as lack of mental capacity and fraudulent manipulation. They argued that their mother’s earlier Will from 1986—within which each child received an equal share of the estate—should be followed.

Rita lost the claim initially, with the Judge finding in favour of the three sons. This appears to have been largely based on the Judge’s findings that Rita was an unsatisfactory and unreliable witness. The Judge described her evidence as having a complete lack of candour and suggested that Rita had a tendency to exaggerate her evidence. The Judge found that Rita had overpowered Anna in the making of her Will and based this finding on a number of factors, including Anna’s vulnerability and dependency on Rita.

However, Anna’s appeal was successful, the court concluding that the Will was in fact valid. The Court of Appeal’s judgment provides some helpful guidance on how to defend an undue influence claim.

First, the court looked at whether here was a logical basis for the Will, and decided there was. The rationale was that Rita had cared for Anna for nearly 10 years and the court contrasted Rita’s relationship with Anna to that of her three sons, who Anna said had effectively neglected her.

The evidence of the solicitor who prepared the Will was also key. Anna told the solicitor that she felt her sons had abandoned her. Crucially, the Will preparation solicitor described Anna as being “quite firm”, “very clear”, and “consistent” in her instructions for the Will, and specifically for her wish to leave Rita her property.

Evidence from Anna’s GP was also relied upon. It confirmed that Anna had the mental capacity to make a Will and there was no reason to believe that Anna was coerced or unduly influenced by Rita.

Whilst Anna’s three sons undoubtedly felt that the terms of her last Will were unfair, this case emphasises the complexities of bringing, and defending, a claim to challenge the validity of the Will and underlines the importance of consulting with specialist solicitors.

If you find yourself in a position such as Rita was in and need experienced guidance on defending an undue influence claim, then please contact us for a free review. Call us on 0333 888 0409 or send details to us by email at [email protected]





How to defend an undue influence claim