Builder says claims that he used 'undue influence' on woman with €500k home are 'outrageous'
Published 11/07/2014 | 16:36
A BUILDER has described as "outrageous" claims he used undue influence when he was made sole beneficiary of a retired journalist's will leaving him her Dublin home worth an estimated €500,000.
Noel Wright was also made executor to the September 2008 will made by Claire Browne, a single woman with no children who died aged 91 in November 2011, having spent several years in hospital before her death. She had lived in a now boarded-up house on Beach Road, Sandymount, with her brother Edward who died in 2003, the High Court heard.
A dispute has arisen between Mr Wright and a niece of Ms Browne, Jacqueline Maryon, who along with Ms Maryon's brother Peter Reynolds, are her only surviving relatives. Jacqueline, who lives in South Africa, and Peter, are children of Ms Browne's sister Angela Reynolds, who pre-deceased her.
Ms Maryon has brought a legal action seeking to have the 2008 will condemned on the basis that her aunt did not have testamentary capacity and because undue influence and duress was allegedly used in the making of it. Ms Maryon wants an earlier will, from October 1976 in which she left everything to her uncle Edward, declared the true will.
Mr Wright has counter-claimed saying Ms Browne was of sound mind and was capable of forming of the testamentary intentions contained in the 2008 will. He says he was a lifelong friend of Ms Browne and was her only visitor after she went into hospital.
He claims Ms Maryon and her brother "had effectively ignored and disregarded her" in the final decades of her life and particularly throughout her stay in hospitals from 2002 until her death.
Last month, Mr Wright, of Kiltipper Road, Tallaght, Dublin, asked the High Court to order Ms Maryon provide security of legal costs in the event she loses the case as she lives outside the jurisdiction.
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he will give his decision on that matter later this month after he yesterday received written legal submissions from both sides.
The court heard previously Ms Browne was admitted to hospital in 2002, after breaking her leg in a fall, where she remained until he death. She suffered from varying degrees of cognitive impairment during that time, it is claimed.
In July 2008, shortly before the second will was made, Ms Browne under-went a "mini-mental state" examination which showed moderate cognitive impairment, Ms Maryon claims. In previous examination, in October 2007, she scored even lower in the the same test which rates cognitive impairment. Doctors had also noted such impairment on five previous occasions, it is also claimed.
Mr Wright says when Ms Browne made the will bequeathing him the house and its furniture, her understanding was sound enough to recall several people who ought to have been considered possible beneficiaries.
He says he was not present when the 2008 will was executed and that the claim of duress and undue influence is "outrageous and unfounded."