Ada Richards, a widow, wrote a Will in 2010, a year before she died aged 92, leaving her fortune, including a £1.5 million home in Highgate, to Tony De Jong who had been her carer in her last years.
Ada’s nephews, Derek and Ian Seager, issued a claim that the Will was invalid as Tony had procured it by undue influence.
Tony De Jong, 74, moved into Ada’s home after she broke her hip in 2007 and provided satisfactory full-time care to Ada for several years. However, on 22 September 2010 a neighbour witnessed an alleged assault by Tony against Ada, which was reported to social services at Harringay Council and the police. Tony was arrested for assault and Ada was taken to hospital and then into a nursing home. She never went back to her own home. Tony denied any wrongdoing and following a trial, was acquitted of all charges on 29 March 2011.
The Seagers’ case hinged on what Ada apparently told her GP, the ambulance service and social services after the alleged assault, which was that she wished she had not signed the Will and she had been under the impression that she had to sign the Will or Tony would cease caring for her.
Her nephews said that their elderly aunt was “afraid of Mr De Jong” and was pressured into leaving everything to him. They claimed that Mr De Jong had isolated their aunt from her friends and “exploited” his position to ingratiate himself in her affections.
However, neither Derek nor Ian had seen their aunt since the 1950s, when they had moved away from London with their mother, Ada’s sister, and they had then lost touch. They did not even know about Ada’s death until they were tracked down by so-called heir hunters after her death.
Tony claimed that Ada had freely made her Will in May 2010 which was witnessed by a retired barrister and Ada’s general practitioner. He stated that Ada had not wanted to include her family in the Will as they had ostracised her following her marriage to a man, who was of Fijian descent.
The court found that the professionals involved in the Will signing had taken reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that Ada was acting of her own free will when the Will had been executed and accordingly, found that the Will in favour of Tony was valid.
This case reminds us that families have a high burden of proof when alleging undue influence as a means of setting aside a Will.
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