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Haggarty v Wood – Testamentary Contract and Undue Influence

Haggarty v Wood – Testamentary Contract and Undue Influence

The plaintiff in Haggarty v Wood sought to overturn various Wills executed by the deceased during his lifetime and also sought to overturn transfers of assets made by the deceased during his lifetime (inter vivos transactions).  Rebekah Sanfuentes, of McNamara Law Ipswich office, acted on behalf of the defendant to seek that the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim be struck out.

Judgement was handed down on 29 November 2013 by Jackson J in the Queensland Supreme Court.  The defendant successfully applied to strike out the plaintiff’s Statement of Claim.

The decision discussed the requirements for the pleading of two types of claims that are often made against deceased estates: the allegation of a testamentary contract between the deceased and a third party, and, an allegation of a Will being executed under undue influence.

Haggarty v Wood – the facts

The background of Haggarty v Wood  is as follows:-

(a) The plaintiff claimed that the deceased had made an agreement during his lifetime with his predeceased wife that various parcels of land would be left to certain grandchildren in his Will;

(b) The deceased left the whole of his estate to his de facto, of whom he had met later in life, which was contrary to the agreement that was allegedly made with his former wife; and

(c) The deceased made various Wills over a six year period.  The plaintiff claimed that these Wills were all made as a result of undue influence.

Was there a Testamentary Contract?

Certain agreements that are made by a deceased with a third party, prior to their demise, are known as ‘testamentary contracts’. His Honour in Haggarty v Wood decided that the alleged testamentary contract did not have any consideration moving from one of the parties, and further, was not coupled with an agreement not to revoke the will. On this basis, the portion of the plaintiff’s claim which relied on the existence of a testamentary contract was struck out.

Was there Testamentary Undue Influence?

In Haggarty v Wood the plaintiff claimed that the defendant had unduly influenced the deceased when he executed various Wills. His Honour summarised that the test for testamentary undue influence is as follows:-

(a) Has the conduct in question overborne the will of the Will maker? and

(b) Has the Will maker consequently made their Will without intending and desiring to make the dispositions in it, to the point where the Will has not been freely and voluntarily made?

In Haggarty v Wood  the Court found that a claim of testamentary undue influence could not be sustained because it did not allege any material facts from which an inference of coercion/undue influence could be drawn.  Accordingly the plaintiff’s claim failed on both grounds. The plaintiff was required to amend his claim accordingly.

Has a promise been made to you that is not reflected in a Will? Do you suspect someone you love has been unduly influenced to make a Will?

If somebody has made a promise to you that is not reflected in their Will, or if you suspect that someone has been unduly influenced to make a Will, you may be able to claim against the estate. Please contact Rebekah Sanfuentes on 07 3816 9555 should you require assistance or advice in this regard.