Victim's family sues wife-killer to secure estate for daughter
WIFE-killer Eamonn Lillis is facing a High Court lawsuit to ensure that the proceeds of his estate go to the couple's teenage daughter.
Lillis had already renounced his right to administer the estate of his late wife Celine Cawley -- but now her family is coming after his money as well on behalf of his daughter.
Any one convicted or murder, attempted murder or manslaughter is precluded from taking any share in the estate of their victim and is treated in law as if they had died before the deceased.
It is understood that the Cawley family will ask the High Court to direct that because Mr Lillis was found guilty of his wife's manslaughter, he is 'dead' for the purposes of the Succession Act. They will argue that his entire estate, as well as his wife's -- valued at some €4m -- should pass directly to the couple's daughter.
The Cawleys have also sought clarification on whether Mr Lillis and Ms Cawley held properties together as joint tenants.
Joint tenancy is a form of ownership which gives rise to a right of survivorship that normally provides that if any one of the joint tenants dies, the remainder of the property is transferred to the survivor.
Even though Mr Lillis is debarred from benefiting from his wife's estate, legal experts say he may still mount a counter claim against any efforts to deprive him from asserting a legal or beneficial entitlement to his share in jointly owned properties, where he has made contributions, such as placing a deposit or making regular mortgage payments.
"These things, though rare, can get complicated and usually result in a settlement," said one probate expert last night.
Last March, Mr Lillis renounced his entitlement to administer his wife's estate and her siblings, Chris and Susanna Cawley, were appointed as joint administrators.
A grant of probate, entitling the administrators to collect and distribute Ms Cawley's estate, was granted by the High Court some weeks later.
But the Cawley family are moving to ensure that their niece, who can not be identified because she is a minor, should benefit from both her parents' estates.
They have retained Brian Speirin SC, a semi-retired barrister and the country's foremost probate expert, to represent them.
Legal experts have said that the Cawley family may ultimately seek a declaration under the Succession Act, preventing Mr Lillis from taking any share of his wife's estate.
Even if the administration of the estate and any application are uncontested by Mr Lillis, it is still necessary to seek such a declaration before the High Court.
No documents have yet been filed in the action, which has been listed before the Master's Court on October 22.
In January of this year, Lillis (52) was jailed after a jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The couple had one child, a now 17-year-old girl.
A prison sentence of six years and 11 months was imposed on Mr Cawley by Mr Justice Barry White.
The judge said it was clear from the verdict that the jury had rejected Lillis's contention that he had no responsibility for his wife's death at the couple's home in Howth, Dublin.