The wife of the deceased procured from her husband, shortly before his death, a deed of transfer of his multi-million estate from his name alone into their joint names. The deceased had made a new will about three months before his death which left 50% to his wife; 10% to each of his three daughters and 20% to his son. The court was to decide if the deed of transfer was valid or perhaps obtained under undue influence by the wife.

The matter arose in 2018 when a court-appointed administrator of the Cox estate brought proceedings against the wife of the deceased claiming that she had procured the ownership transfer by duress and or undue influence. Mrs. Cox denied the claim and maintained that the will her husband made three months before his death was made when her husband did not have the mental capacity to make it due to the potent medication he was on.

Following negotiations, the case was settled but it had to be re-entered for the court’s attention, as prior to the settlement, Mrs. Cox, had entered a deal with a solar energy company to purchase the lands and the sale proceeds were to be used to pay the children.

The court was informed that Mr. Cox, the deceased, was seriously ill in 2004 and was in and out of hospital. In an old will of 1991, he had left his estate to his wife. His daughters maintained that it had always been their father’s intention that all his children would get a share of the estate. One of his daughters, who handled her father’s post when he became ill, came across the old will and she and her sisters were shocked at its contents. They asked their father about the old will when he was in hospital, and he said it was an ‘old farmer’s will’ and ‘not his will’.  A few days later the father told his daughter that he had ‘made things right’. This was in reference to a new will he made in June 2005 leaving 50% to his wife and the remainder to his children.

The court found that it was the intention of the deceased father to benefit his children to the extent provided in his 2005 will and ruled the earlier deed of transfer of ownership undermined that objective and was probably signed by the deceased under a misapprehension.  The judge was satisfied that the deceased Mr. Cox did not realise the effect of the deed of transfer and that it would override any subsequent will. Consequently, the estate would be divided according to the will of 2005 and not the deed of transfer which the court deemed null and void.

In the Matter of Richard Cox, Deceased [2023] IEHC 100.