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Warning to families over undue influence case

An expert is advising families to exercise caution when dealing with the assets of a vulnerable family member.

The recommendation follows a court case in which a judge ruled that a woman must return a sum of money to her late mother’s estate because the sale of her house was deemed to be against her wishes.

A jury found that the late Mrs Smith was capable of making decisions by herself, but was ‘unduly influenced’ by her daughter Mrs Leigh, who was said to be in a position of ascendancy, or domineering.

Now Stephanie Kerr, solicitor in the Litigation team at Lancashire law firm Napthens, is urging people to seek legal advice to ensure that correct procedures are followed.

Stephanie said: “It is imperative that family members who are more susceptible to improper pressure are not coerced into making highly important decisions under the influence of a family member.

“If you are concerned that a relative has been influenced in the transfer or sale of a significant asset, or have any queries regarding this, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible. It may be that court proceedings are necessary.”

Mrs Leigh moved her mother into a care home and arranged the subsequent sale of her house, without involving or consulting the rest of Mrs Smith’s family members.

The proceeds of the sale of almost £293,000 were transferred into Mrs Leigh’s bank account, not her mother’s.

Mrs Smith later told witnesses that she did not know where the money from the sale of her house had gone, despite her daughter describing it as a ‘gift.’

Although Mrs Leigh remains the main beneficiary of her late mother’s estate, it is likely that she will have to pay the legal costs of her niece and nephew, who brought the case against her. They are also entitled to 25 per cent of the sale.

Napthens is recognised by the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists (ACTAPS) as having the necessary expertise in inheritance and will disputes.