Undue influence

Posted: 14th December 2011

The High Court has ruled that a Kent businessman who left a £4 million fortune to the woman who shared his life and helped run the family business for more than 30 years was not put under ‘undue influence’ when he changed his will to make her his sole beneficiary.

The man, who had terminal cancer, left hospital to settle his affairs before he died. He instructed a solicitor to draw up a new will and he married his partner of 32 years just three days before his death.

The will was handwritten by his solicitor and was read aloud to him. The solicitor and the man’s former wife, whom he had divorced in 1977, were witnesses. The will was made ‘in contemplation of marriage’ (as marriage will otherwise make an existing will void).

His daughters challenged the will, claiming that it had been made because of the undue influence exerted by his wife.

The court accepted that the man fully understood what he was doing. By marrying, he could pass his assets to his spouse without paying Inheritance Tax, for which he had made no provision.

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