Sick and vulnerable people can be prone to the malign, even fraudulent, influence of relatives or others who are intent on maximising their inheritance. However, as a High Court case showed, such conduct is unlikely to go undetected.
The case concerned a man who was suffering from leukaemia when he died at the age of 92. Less than a month before he passed away, he made a will by which he bequeathed almost the whole of his estate to his daughter and her partner. He left only his cars and the contents of his shed and garage to his son. The son’s response was to launch proceedings challenging the will.
Following a hearing, the Court found on the evidence that the daughter had, prior to the making of the will, set out to assassinate the son’s character. In her ailing father’s hearing, she gave vent to a tirade, painting the son as, amongst other things, a thief and a violent man who assaulted women. Although those and other allegations were entirely false, she succeeded in poisoning her father’s mind against his son.
Ruling the will invalid, the Court found that the father’s ability to make his will as a free agent was overborne by the daughter’s strident, forceful and repeated peddling of falsehoods concerning the son. She brought undue influence to bear on her father and the Court made a rare finding that her conduct amounted to fraudulent calumny. The ruling meant that the father died without making a valid will so that his estate would be divided equally between his next of kin.