Sunday 16 December 2018

Two sisters of woman (50) who left €240k estate to 'close friend' dispute will in High Court

Majella Rippington leaving the High Court after the hearing.
Majella Rippington leaving the High Court after the hearing. PIC: COURTPIX
Majella Rippington, with her husband, Shaun Rippington, leaving the High Court after the hearing. PIC: COURTPIX

Tim Healy

Two sisters of a woman who died from cancer and left her estate to a friend have claimed in the High Court the will is invalid.

Majella Rippington and Edel Banahan, sisters of the late Celine Murphy (50), of "Genazzano", Old Naas Road in Dublin, claim undue influence was used to get Celine to sign the will so that Mary Butler, from Straffan, Kildare, would get the proceeds which include an apartment. 

The case is also against the executor of the will, Tridentine Bishop Michael Cox who set up the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The defendants deny the claim that Ms Murphy was under undue influence. 

They say Ms Butler and Celine, who was single and had no children, had been close friends for many years.

They say Celine entrusted the will for safekeeping to Bishop Cox and instructed him the contents were not to be disclosed until three weeks after her death which occurred on March 15, 2011. 

They say Celine, on a regular visit to Ms Butler's home, on March 8, 2011, a week before she died, produced the hand written will from her handbag and asked Ms Butler and her (Butler's) daughter Joanna to witness it.

They say she was of sound mind and have counter-claimed seeking an order that the will is valid.

Majella Rippington, who is representing herself, her husband Shaun Rippington and her sister Edel, told the court  Celine was physically and mentally incapable of making the will on March 8, 2011.

Celine, who was 34 years a hair stylist and worked with David Marshall's in Dawson Street, Dublin, left an estate including an apartment and a life insurance policy allegedly worth €240,000, she says.  The defendants claim the total value of the estate was €283,000 which Mrs Rippington disputes.

Mrs Rippington also says Ms Butler is seeking Celine's share in the former family home on the Old Naas Road as their mother, Catherine Murphy, died shortly after Celine and left the house to her four children.

Mrs Rippington told the court she believed Ms Butler was "a parasitic type of person who got into my sister's life".  She claimed it was Mrs Butler advised her to buy the apartment in 2004 which was completely unsuitable for her needs and over mortgaged.

Mrs Rippington, who is a property letting agent, said she advised her sister against the purchase of the apartment but Celine was very headstrong and would not listen to members of her family.  However, Celine was quite particular about her affairs and would not have arranged her will in the way she did, she said.

Whenever Mrs Rippington found Celine in the company of Mrs Butler, her sister would not engage with her.   Mrs Butler also never came to the family home when their (Murphys') mother was there, she said.

Mrs Rippington also claimed that in January 2011, after a liver biospy confirmed Celine's cancer was terminal,  Mrs Butler took her to a faith healer in Galway when she was in no fit state to travel that distance.

Due to a serious complication from to her cancer, which led to gangrene in her fingers, she was not physically able to do the simplest of tasks, including picking up a pen to sign a a will, Mrs Rippington said. She was also not fit to drive herself to Staffan to get the will witnessed, she said.

Dr David Fennelly, consultant oncologist, said Celine was admitted to St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on March 9, the day after the will was signed.

While the digital ischemia in her fingers may have affected her physical capacity, he did not believe her mental capacity was affected.  

The case continues before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan. 

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