Mr Justice Paul Gilligan began hearing a case on 26th June 2014 involving an allegation of undue influence over an elderly testatrix, Claire Browne, in the High Court. It is alleged by a the plaintiff who is niece of the deceased,and resides in South Africa, that a gentlemen who had befriended the elderly woman some years before her death used undue influence to get her to change her will. The deceased Testatrix, Claire Browne, was aged 88 at the time of her death in November 2011 and was single. She had been hospitalised since 2003.
In September 2008, she made a will leaving her main asset being her former home in Beach Road, Sandymount, Dublin to a Mr. Wright . It was claimed in court that the house is now vacant and boarded up and worth an estimated €500,000. Three years before her death she appointed Mr Wright sole executor and sole beneficiary of her will while in hospital. The court was told that a Solicitor was present during discussions about the will but was not present when it was drawn up. The court was told that it appears to have been drawn up by Mr Wright himself.
The deceased’s last will was changed such that the gentleman in question was left everything. The Plaintiff is seeking an order from the court declaring as the true last will and testament a previous will made by the deceased in October 1976, leaving everything to the plaintiff’s father Edward Browne now also deceased, and a brother of the deceased. Counsel for the Plaintiff will argue that Ms. Browne did not have testamentary capacity to make the will and undue influence had been used to get her to make it. It will also be alleged that the will was made without the benefit of legal advice. The evidence to be given by the plaintiff will be based on three cognitive tests to assess the testatrix’s capacity. These were carried out in hospital between 2006 and 2008 and show the late Ms.Browne was in early stage Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Mr Wright alleges that he carried out work in the deceased’s home and got to know her very well while she was in hospital after a fall. Mr Wright has also claimed that his father had been a good friend of Ms Browne’s late brother Edward. Mr. Wright said that he visited her regularly and believes all others had “abandoned” her because she seemed to have no other visitors.
When the Plaintiff issued proceedings challenging the will, Mr Wright asked the court to order her to provide security for legal costs should she lose the case as she was resident outside the jurisdiction. Mr Justice Paul Gilligan indicated that there were serious questions to be asked about the situation leading up to the second will and it was in the public interest the court examine the matter. Mr Justice Paul Gilligan adjourned the case for hearing to next month to enable a full valuation in relation to the Sandymount property to be obtained before the hearing date.
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