Family, Estates & Trusts 

FREE CONSULTATIONS

|

A Presumption of Undue influence Where one Party Can Dominate Another


The case of Longmuir v. Holland, 2000 BCCA 538 is a tale the presumption of undue influence and testamentary incapacity; and a dispute between two nieces of a widow who passed away with no children of her own. Both nieces hoped to inherit their aunt’s house.

In 1983 the aunt entered an agreement with one of the nieces, Ms. Holland, under which Ms. Holland and her husband would live with her aunt in exchange for certain services. Four months after making the agreement, the aunt changed ownership of the house so that the Hollands were joint tenant owners. The relationship between them became strained and in 1986 the aunt severed the joint tenancy and made a new will leaving her estate to Ms. Longmuir, her other niece. Ms. Holland retained her interest in the house, and when the Hollands separated Mr. Holland assigned his one-third interest to Ms. Holland. Then in 1990 the aunt made a further will dividing the estate between both nieces and two other people. Finally, in 1991, she made another will leaving her estate to Ms. Holland. At that time, Ms. Holland was still living with the aunt and continued to live with her until she passed away. Ms. Longmuir sought to have the 1991 will declared invalid as a result of the aunt’s mental incapacity or undue influence on the part of Ms. Holland.

There was no direct medical evidence regarding the aunt’s testamentary capacity in 1990 and 1991, but there was evidence that by 1992 she lacked such competence. The doctor who examined her in 1992 also noted that Ms. Holland was overprotective and overbearing, and thought that the aunt would at this time have been susceptible to undue influence. Ms. Holland gave evidence that the aunt had testamentary capacity in 1991, but the trial judge questioned the truth of Ms. Holland’s evidence and put very little weight on it. He found that the 1990 will was valid, but also found that the Hollands might have unduly influenced the aunt with respect to the transfer of an interest in the home to them, and so he set aside the transfer of the property on the grounds of public policy.

A presumption of undue influence?

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part. The majority found that the aunt had the opportunity for independent legal advice and understood the advantages and disadvantages of transferring the property into joint ownership in 1984. However, the majority went on to find that there were enough suspicious circumstances surrounding the aunt’s testamentary capacity and the presumption of undue influence by Ms. Holland as to render the 1991 will invalid. In particular, the majority noted that the aunt was found to be incapable in 1992 and in the doctor’s opinion her decline had likely been happening for some time. Additionally, there was evidence to the effect that Ms. Holland made it difficult for the aunt’s relatives to even see her after the 1991 will was executed, and that Ms. Holland controlled the aunt’s mail and prevented her from replying to letters.

The final word

When a person who is in a position to exercise a dominating influence over another receives a substantial benefit from that other, there is a presumption of undue influence. Far from rebutting the presumption, the evidence supported the conclusion that Ms. Holland unduly influenced her aunt.

Have questions about a topic?

Onyx Law Group represents clients in family law, estate and trust litigation, estate planning and probate matters. Consult with our experienced team at 
(604) 900-2538

TELL US HOW WE CAN HELP

(604) 900-2538

Contact Us
  • We were made to feel valued and heard. Integrity, competence and a passion for justice definitely describes Onyx. They are also caring, compassionate and have a good sense of humour.

  • Thanks to Onyx’s straightforward approach, this litigation was resolved with the best outcome for myself and my children. Although this ordeal was emotionally trying, we can get on with our lives, without added worry and stress.

  • I chose the right law firm and I know our future is on the proper course because of Onyx. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone who needs good legal representation to take my words to heart.

We will find the best way to help you

Vancouver

650 West Georgia Street
Suite 1215 - The Scotia Tower
Vancouver, BC  V6B 4N9

T (604) 900 2538
F (604) 900 2539

reception@onyxlaw.ca

New Westminster

26 Fourth Street
Suite 100
New Westminster, BC  V3L 5M4

T (604) 900 2538
F (604) 900 2539

reception@onyxlaw.ca

Kelowna

1631 Dickson Avenue
Suite 1100
Kelowna, BC  V1Y 0B5

T (604) 900-2538
F (604) 900-2539

reception@onyxlaw.ca

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be considered legal, financial, tax, medical, or any other professional advice.

Powered by GLP Marketing

Copyright © Onyx Law All Rights Reserved