The High Court has refused to allow a man to remortgage his deceased mother’s house after her three other children disputed the validity of a purported will and where there was reason to believe that she had been subjected to undue influence.
Rebecca Armstrong Associate Solicitor reports on this recent case.
The property was a five-bedroom house in south London in which the mother had lived since her divorce in 1980. She had acquired the freehold from the local authority in 2004.
Her son, the defendant, said that the purchase had been made with his assistance. In 2009 he had moved her into one of his own properties and the house was leased to tenants.
He declared bankruptcy in 2016. His mother borrowed against the house and gave the funds to him. He said that there was nothing sinister about it and that he had been his mother’s sole carer. She moved into a care home in 2018 and died in 2020.
The siblings contended that she had died intestate and that her estate should be divided by four. They obtained a freezing order to restrain the defendant from dealing with the estate.
He was required to produce the will and provide details of all assets by May 2020. The information was not provided but he served a witness statement with a copy of the will which stated that he would inherit the house.
The siblings said that the defendant was not a fit and proper person to administer the estate.
The court found in favour of the siblings. It held that it was clear that the defendant was not the appropriate person to administer his mother’s estate, that he should be replaced by a more responsible person, and that there was a live dispute as to the beneficiaries of the estate.
The fact that a freezing order had been made indicated that the court had held that there was a real risk of dissipation of assets and an issue as to the improper acquisition of funds.
Only a fraction of the information which had been requested from the defendant had been provided and he had not acknowledged service of the claim.
There were grounds to believe that the existing mortgage had been obtained under undue influence, given the mother’s medical history and the defendant’s financial history.
The administration of the estate was to be placed in competent professional hands pending the outcome of the dispute between the parties.
If you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of contentious probate please contact Rebecca on 01228 516666.