Coercion in making a will

Date: Sep 07, 2011
Document Type: Article
The case of Wingrove v Wingrove (1885) is the authority for the proposition that a testamentary disposition does not have a testator’s knowledge and approval if the testator was coerced into making a bequest. Coercion was stated by Sir James Hannen (judge of the UK Probate and Divorce Court in 1872, and in 1875 appointed President of the Probate and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice) to include:
“pressing something … [upon a person so as to] fatigue the brain thus causing that person to do anything.”
Using this definition, the question arises whether mental abuse in a marital relationship could be considered coercion if it evokes general feelings of fear? (i.e. will a long-standing relationship where one party is consistently coerced be enough to invoke the shredding machine of the courts?).
For example, a husband and wife are married for 15 years. One spouse mentally abuses the other in various ways during this time. If, under these circumstances, the victim bequeathed all, or even part, of their belongings to the abusive spouse, could this be considered undue influence?
At Craddock Murray Neumann we can assist you with wills and estates, family law and general law.
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