Will fraud: What can you do?
Allegations of will fraud are becoming increasingly common. A recent case, Christodoulides v Marcou, has highlighted a rarely used ground upon which the validity of a will can be challenged: fraudulent calumny.
Fraudulent calumny is a particular type of fraudulent behaviour. It arises where a beneficiary has told a testator lies (either knowing them to be false or not caring whether they were true or false), which has poisoned their mind and resulted in the testator changing their will.
In this case, the dispute was between two Sisters (Niki Christodoulides and Androulla Marcou) in relation to their mother’s estate. She had made a will just a few days before her death. The will appointed Niki as the executrix of the estate and left the entire residuary estate to her. A clause was included stating that no provision had been made for Androulla.
It was accepted by all involved that the mother’s intention was always to ensure a roughly equal distribution of her estate between her two daughters.
However, a sum of around €500,000 was transferred by the mother into the joint names of herself and Androulla. This greatly angered Niki (perhaps due to the loss of control or concerns about losing out) and despite her being added as a joint holder of those funds only a few days later, that anger never appears to have dissipated.
The Court concluded that Niki proceeded to poison her mother’s mind through words and actions indicating that Androulla had stolen her mother’s money. This was evidenced by the instructions given to the lawyer who prepared the will, which recorded that by excluding Androulla her mother “would allow a more even distribution of her assets to both daughters as Androulla had helped herself to a substantial amount of assets already and that Niki had not”.
The Judge described Niki as a “thoroughly dishonest and manipulative individual to whom integrity and truth are less important than achieving what she wants”.
Accordingly, the will was declared invalid and the estate was divided equally between the two sisters.
If you are involved in an estate where will fraud or fraudulent calumny arises and you require expert guidance then please contact our specialist legal team on 0333 888 0404 or send an email to [email protected]