What is Fraudulent Calumny?

Contesting the Will of a loved one can be a complex and emotionally difficult process. This is especially true when there are suspicions of undue influence or manipulation.

Among the various legal grounds for challenging a Will in England and Wales, one ground that Hart Reade Will investigate on your behalf is “fraudulent calumny”. This legal doctrine serves as a safeguard against the undue influence exerted through false statements and misrepresentation – lies which were made to the person writing their Will (the testator) which aimed to get the testator to change their Will – potentially to remove you and stop you inheriting.

What is Fraudulent Calumny?

Fraudulent calumny refers to the act of “poisoning the mind” of a testator against a rightful beneficiary by telling them lies or through malicious misrepresentation. In simpler terms, it involves one party manipulating the testator by lying to them or distorting facts to influence their decisions.

The key distinction here is that the testator is not coerced directly but is misled into making decisions based on falsehoods.

If, for example, your sibling lies to your mother and tells them that you have been stealing from family members, your mother may feel compelled to leave their entire estate to your sibling whereas, without this lie poisoning her mind, the estate would have been left to you and your sibling in equal shares.

What does this mean for contesting a Will?

In the context of contesting a Will, fraudulent calumny can invalidate the document if it can be proven that the testator’s decision to exclude or favour specific beneficiaries was a result of deliberate deception rather than the testator’s genuine intentions.

This means that even if a Will appears to reflect the testator’s wishes on the surface, if it can be demonstrated that those wishes were shaped by fraudulent means, the Will may be set aside by the court.

Proving Fraudulent Calumny

There is a very high evidence threshold for proving fraudulent calumny as, on the face of it you are asking the court to set aside a valid Will.  In order to prove fraudulent calumny the court Will need to be satisfied of the following:

False Statements: There must be evidence of false statements or misrepresentation made to the testator. This could involve lies about the character or intentions of a potential beneficiary (such as yourself).

Impact on Testator: You must be able to show that these false statements had a significant impact on the testator’s decision-making process. In other words, the testator must have been influenced by the misinformation in a way that led to changes in the Will, and that they would not have intended to make these changes if they had not been fed this misinformation.

Intent: You must be to show be evidence of the perpetrator’s intent to deceive the testator for their own benefit, or to the detriment of another potential beneficiary.

It’s not enough to have a strong feeling or circumstantial evidence that the testator’s mind has been poisoned against you, or another potential beneficiary, you must be able to demonstrate that misinformation Will intentionally passed to the testator with the intention of having them change their Will.

The courts want to ensure that a testator’s final wishes, as recorded in their Will, are not tainted with lies and misinformation and that they created their Will with all relevant facts available to them. Contesting a Will on the grounds of fraudulent calumny requires careful examination of the evidence and a thorough understanding of the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Will itself.

Hart Reade can assist you with claims of fraudulent calumny, and any other contentious probate matters. Please contact our litigation team to take the next step.

We look forward to receiving your instructions.

01323 727 321   info@hartreade.co.uk   www.hartreade.co.uk