Judge rules that disputed will is valid and describes sister as 'domineering'
Published 31/07/2015 | 02:30
The High Court has declared the disputed will of a woman who drew it up a week before she died to be valid.
Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said Celine Murphy (50), who died of cancer on March 15, 2011, had the requisite capacity when she made the will leaving her estate, valued at around €283,000, to her best friend, Mary Butler from Straffan in Co Kildare.
Ms Murphy's sister Majella Rippington, her husband Shaun and Ms Murphy's other sister Edel Banahan asked the court to declare the will invalid - claiming Ms Murphy signed it in circumstances of duress and undue influence.
Ms Butler and Tridentine Bishop Michael Cox, who was named as executor, denied the claims, saying Ms Murphy was of sound mind. They counter-claimed, seeking to have the will declared valid.
Mr Justice Noonan described Ms Rippington, who personally presented the case, as "domineering, manipulative and an utterly unreliable witness who was prepared to say anything she felt might serve her purpose".
The judge said because of the outrageous and unsubstantiated allegations made against the defendants in this case, the Rippington/Banahan side should pay all the legal costs and the Murphy estate should not be burdened with those costs. He put a stay on the costs pending appeal, but not on any other order.
Ms Rippington said she would be appealing.
The judge was satisfied Ms Butler was "a close and valued friend" of Ms Murphy.
It would be idle to speculate the nature of the relationship between Ms Murphy and members of her family. But, the judge said, "suffice it to say there is nothing irrational about the contents of the will of the deceased".
He said the evidence showed on the day she made the will, March 8, 2011, there was a continuous catalogue of her movements and interaction with others from 9.30am to 10pm that evening.
Nothing in the evidence, including that of Ms Rippington herself, suggested Ms Murphy was other than "completely lucid, rational and coherent at all times during that day".
The medical evidence from her treating doctor put that matter "beyond doubt".