Undue influence is presumed where there was a relationship of trust and confidence between the parties such that it is fair to presume that the wrongdoer abused the relationship in procuring the other party in the relationship to enter into a transaction.
Date of Decision: 20 May 2015
20 May 2015
Outcome: Application allowed.
1 This case involved the execution of a will by the court on behalf of the testator under s 23(1)(i) of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) (statutory will). One of the issues was whether the testator was under the undue influence of one of the beneficiaries to execute her will bequeathing everything to that beneficiary.
2 Assets left behind by an individual belong to no one but that individual. It is therefore not for anyone, including the Court, to dictate whimsically what the testator ought to do or have done with her money: at .
3 The quintessential nature and objective of the MCA is to protect the mentally incapacitated person. The court is guided by the principles found in s 3 of the MCA (Cap 177A, Rev Ed 2010) and the need to act in the best interests of the testator. Best interests require an assessment of what would serve the interest of the testator and not what the court believed the testator would have done had the testator possessed testamentary capacity. In determining what would be the best interests of a person, the court is also asked to consider the non-exhaustive list of factors in s 6 of the MCA (Cap 177A, Rev Ed 2010): at  and .
4 Rhetorical debate in MCA proceedings should as far as reasonably possible, be avoided. Unnecessary adversarial positions may end up with little or no value to parties and may indeed serve to delay proceedings to the detriment of the mentally incapacitated patient the MCA is designed to protect: at .
5 In determining whether the testator was under undue influence, the issue before the court was whether the testator was labouring under an influence stronger than her true will. The issue is not simply whether the testator complied with procedural requirements in the execution of her will: at .
6 Insofar as assessing the strength of the evidence in support of the alleged undue influence, the court did not see it necessary to call on witnesses for purposes of cross-examination: at .
7 Undue influence is presumed where there was a relationship of trust and confidence between the parties such that it is fair to presume that the wrongdoer abused the relationship in procuring the other party in the relationship to enter into a transaction. It would be up to the wrongdoer then to show that the party who entered into such a contract had entered into it freely: at .
8 The motivations of any beneficiary of a will who involves himself so deeply in the execution of that will are suspicious: at .
This summary is provided to assist the public to have a better understanding of the Court’s judgment. It is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the Court. All numbers in bold font and square brackets refer to the corresponding paragraph numbers in the Court’s judgment.