How Can I Prove a Will is Invalid because of Undue Influence?


There are very limited grounds for overturning a Will in England and Wales.

It can be overturned because:

  • it was not properly signed and witnessed;
  • the person who made it lacked testamentary capacity at the relevant time;
  • the person who made it did not know and approve the contents of the Will;
  • the Will was brought about by undue influence; or
  • the Will was brought about by fraudulent calumny.

This article focuses on undue influence.

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How Can I Prove a Will is Invalid because of Undue Influence

Undue Influence

We can all remind our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that we would like something from their estate when they eventually pass away.

Many families even joke about their parents "spending their inheritance" on holidays and such, and in others, sibling rivalry can result in requests for a greater share.

The law tells us where that persuasion, encouragement or influence is regarded as "undue".

Influence is "undue" where there is coercion (where it overbears what the person making their Will wants to do) or fraud.

In simple terms, the question is whether the person making the Will "acted as a free agent".

It is notoriously difficult to prove that a Will is invalid because of undue influence.

There is rarely direct evidence that a Will is the product of undue influence exerted over the person making it.

In addition, the key witness – the person who has potentially been unduly influenced – has inevitably passed away before this question is addressed.

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Undue Influence

Jones v Jones

The recent case of Jones v Jones [2023] EWHC 1457 (Ch) is a helpful example of a case where the Judge found that the Will was the product of undue influence even though there was no direct evidence.

It held that Mrs Jones' Will should not be admitted to probate because that Will was the product of undue influence by her daughter, Ceri.

The Judge listed ten reasons for reaching that decision:

  1. There was evidence that Ceri believed she should inherit her mother's house, including text messages between Ceri and her niece.
  2. Mrs Jones had always said she wanted to leave her house between all four of her daughters, and when one daughter died, then her share would go to her children.
  3. Mrs Jones was grieving the death of one of her daughters when she signed the Will.
  4. Ceri isolated her mother from the rest of her family.
  5. Ceri reacted angrily when Mrs Jones' brother tried to discuss the Will with Mrs Jones.
  6. Ceri told her mother that her sisters had taken her money and credit cards, and because of her dementia, Mrs Jones was more likely to believe what Ceri told her.
  7. Mrs Jones was physically and mentally vulnerable and very dependent on Ceri when she signed the Will.
  8. Ceri tried to say she had nothing to do with the Will being made, but other factors indicated her involvement.
  9. The Will was signed without any solicitor or medical professional being involved.
  10. Even after the Will was signed, Ceri further distanced her mother from her family, the social worker and the police.

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Jones v Jones

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The courts scrutinise these cases very closely, and the outcome always depends on the facts of the case. It is important to obtain advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

If you think you may have, or that you may need to defend, a claim for undue influence, don't hesitate to get in touch with our Probate Litigation team.