Brother wins dispute after sister attempted to have him disinherited

A recent online story found here outlines a recent decision from the Bristol High Court in the United Kingdom about a sister who attempted to have her brother disinherited by their father. District Judge Tony Woodburn set aside the will in question because it was prepared fraudulently and as a result of undue influence. This is known as fraudulent calumny.

According to the story, Sonia Whittle made several false accusations about her brother, David Whittle, to their father, Gerald Whittle shortly before his death. These accusations resulted in Gerald preparing a will that largely disinherited David.

Gerald executed the will in question three weeks before his death at age 92 in December of 2016. Gerald’s solicitors sent a trainee legal executive to his house to take instructions for the will. Sonia was present during the meeting and told the legal executive that David and his wife Julie were psychopaths and criminals and that they had stolen large amounts of money from Julie’s mother.  Sonia made claims that David had been looking for Gerald’s bank information while he was hospitalized. She also claimed that David had stolen Gerald’s antiques and classic cars. The will left the Gerald’s cars to David, the majority of the estate valued at £1 million to Sonia and her partner Ray Spicer, and named Sonia and Ray executors.

The presiding judge ruled that none of the claims against David were true and described Sonia’s behavior as disgraceful and appalling.

David’s will challenge was successful and according to the story, this had the effect of disinheriting Sonia. It is unclear if Gerald had an earlier will and if Sonia would appeal the Court’s decision.


Undue influence can be a serious concern for elderly individuals

Undue influence can take many forms and drastically impact the lives of families. There is nothing unusual about children discussing estate plans with their elderly parents. However, making false allegations against a sibling in order to mislead an elderly parent is totally inappropriate.

The story above does not provide details with respect to Gerald’s cognitive capacity. If someone like Gerald has declining cognitive capacity, this person will likely be even more vulnerable to undue influence and pressure.

No details are given with respect to Gerald’s care and who, if anyone, was assisting him with his daily activities. If Gerald was relying on Sonia for support and help, then that would make him even more vulnerable to undue influence. Nonetheless, undue influence can be very difficult to prove in Court.

Given that our population is aging, it is likely that the frequency of cases like this one will increase.

This will be an interesting story to follow. More here.