Rea v Rea [2024] – Undue Influence challenge to a Will


Case Summary:


This case revolves around the validity of a will made by Mrs. Anna Rea in 2015. The claimant and appellant is her daughter, Rita Rea, while the defendants and respondents are her sons: Remo, Nino, and David Rea.

Anna Rea made a will in 1986, after her divorce, appointing her son Remo as her executor and dividing her property equally among her children. However, in 2015, she made a new will, leaving her house to her daughter Rita, who had been her primary caregiver since 2009. The rest of her estate was to be divided equally among her four children.

The sons were not informed about the 2015 will during Anna’s lifetime and only discovered it after her death. They disputed the validity of the 2015 will, alleging that Anna lacked testamentary capacity when the will was made, that she did not know and approve the contents of the will, that Rita exerted undue influence over her, and that the will was invalid due to fraudulent calumny. They sought orders pronouncing against the 2015 will and in favor of the 1986 will.

The case went through several trials and appeals. In the final judgment, the Judge concluded that Rita had demonstrated that Anna had the required testamentary capacity at the time she gave instructions for, and executed, the 2015 will, and that Anna both knew and approved of the terms of the 2015 will. However, the Judge considered the case as to undue influence to have been made out. On that basis, he pronounced against the 2015 will and in favor of the 1986 will.



The text discusses the legal concept of “undue influence” in the context of wills. Key points include:

  1. Undue Influence: Sir James Hannen P explained that if a testator is persuaded or induced to give their property to another, even if the reasons are disapproved of, it is still legal. It becomes undue influence only when the will of the testator is coerced into doing something they do not wish to do.
  2. Coercion: Coercion can take various forms, from gross forms like actual confinement or violence to subtle forms like pressuring a weak and feeble person.
  3. Proof of Undue Influence: It’s not enough to establish that a person has the power to unduly overbear the will of the testator. It must also be proven that this power was exercised and resulted in the will.
  4. Standard of Proof: The burden is on the person alleging undue influence to prove it to the civil standard, which means more likely than not.
  5. Inherent Probabilities: The extent to which inherent probabilities should be considered depends on the particular facts. It may be appropriate to proceed on the basis that undue influence is inherently improbable.
  6. Establishing Undue Influence: Undue influence can be established without direct evidence of it. The proof can come from circumstantial evidence.
  7. Consistency with Hypotheses: To set aside the will of a person of sound mind, it must be shown that the circumstances attending its execution are inconsistent with a contrary hypothesis.
  8. Case of Undue Influence: The judge found that the defendants established undue influence in the case at hand. The factors leading to this conclusion include the testator’s frailty and vulnerability, dependency on the defendant, the timing of the will, the terms of the will, and the failure to disclose the will’s existence before the testator’s death.
  9. Fraudulent Calumny: The case was not considered a case of fraudulent calumny, where the person alleged to have been poisoning the testator’s mind must either know that the aspersions are false, or must not care whether they are true or false.



The summary of the appeal:

Mr. Robert Deacon, representing Rita, challenged the Judge’s decision on two grounds. Firstly, he argued that the defense and counterclaim’s terms did not allow the Judge to find undue influence. Secondly, he submitted that the Judge was wrong to find undue influence based on the evidence.

The Judge had concluded that Rita had procured the making and execution of the 2015 Will by exercising undue influence over her mother, Anna. However, Mr. Deacon argued that this finding lacked an evidential foundation and could not be reasonably justified.

The Judge had considered several factors leading to the conclusion of undue influence. These included Anna’s frailty and vulnerability, Rita’s forceful personality, Anna’s dependency on Rita, the timing of the new will, and the terms of the 2015 Will. However, the appellate court found issues with each of these factors and did not see them as conclusive evidence of undue influence.

Furthermore, the Judge did not seem to take sufficient account of the evidence from Mrs. Sukul, Dr. Qaiyum, and Ms. Batson, all of whom were deemed reliable witnesses and saw no reason to believe that there had been coercion.

They argued that such conduct is inherently unlikely, and there was no direct evidence of coercion in this case. The circumstances could be just as consistent with Anna deciding to make a new will either entirely of her own accord or after being encouraged to do so by Rita. Therefore, the finding of undue influence could not be sustained.

The appellate court disagreed with the Judge’s finding of undue influence in the case of Rita and her mother, Anna. The court argued that the Judge did not sufficiently consider the evidence of Mrs Sukul, Dr Qaiyum, and Ms Batson, all of whom saw no reason to believe that there had been coercion.

The court noted that Anna had testamentary capacity, knew and approved of the terms of the 2015 Will, and there was no direct evidence of coercion. Furthermore, Anna was described as “strong-minded”, “stubborn” and “not a push-over”, and she had consistently expressed her wish to leave 5 Brenda Road to Rita, who had been caring for her for years.

The court concluded that the evidence did not support a finding of undue influence and that it was more likely that Rita had merely sought to persuade her mother to make the 2015 Will. Therefore, the court decided to confirm the validity of the 2015 Will, allow the appeal, admit the 2015 Will to probate in solemn form, and dismiss the counterclaim. Lord Justice Arnold and Lord Justice Moylan agreed with this conclusion.


  1. Rea v Rea & Ors [2024] EWCA Civ 169 (23 February 2024) (
  2. Wingrove v Wingrove(1885) 11 PD 81
  3. Baudains v Richardson[1906] AC 169
  4. Craig v Lamoureux [1919] AC 349
  5. Home Secretary v Rehman [2001] UKHL 47, [2003] 1 AC 153
  6. In re B (Children) [2008] UKHL 35, [2009] 1 AC 11
  7. Schrader v Schrader [2013] EWHC 466 (Ch), [2013] WTLR 701
  8. Re Good [2002] EWHC 640 (Ch)
  9. Boyse v Rossborough (1857) 6 HL Cas 2, 10 ER 1192
  10. Cowderoy v Cranfield [2011] EWHC
  11. Theobald on Wills, 19th ed.,
  12. Henderson v Foxworth Investments Ltd [2014] UKSC 41, [2014] 1 WLR 2600; paragraph 67
  13. R (R) v Chief Constable of Greater Manchester [2018] 1 WLR 4079, paragraph 64
  14. In re Sprintroom Ltd [2019] 2 BCLC 617, paragraphs 76 and 77
  15. Griffiths v TUI (UK) Ltd [2023] UKSC 48, [2023] 3 WLR 1204, at paragraph 70(i), per Lord Hodge

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