King v Dubrey & ors [2014] EWCH 2083 (Ch)

WTLR Issue: October 2014 #143

KENNETH PAUL KING

V

1. JAMES DUBREY

2. JOAN DUBERY

3. TRUDY MANNING

4. JUNE DAVIES

5. MARGARET VON HOENSBROECH

6. ELIZABETH DRORER

7. JOAN COPEMAN

8. JENNIFER COSBY

9. IVY BANKS

10. ELSPETH WOTHERSPOON

11. RONALD ARCHER

12. SALLY ARCHER

13. DOROTHY COOPER

14. MRS WOODSTOCK

15. THE CHILTERN DOG RESCUE

16. THE BLUE CROSS ANIMAL SHELTER

17. REDWINGS HORSE SANCTUARY

18. THE DONKEY SANCTUARY

19. THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

20. THE PDSA

21. THE WORLD SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS

Analysis

The deceased, June Fairbrother, (D), a retired policewoman, made a will in March 1998 leaving legacies to friends and family, the 3rd to 14th defendants ,the executors and legatees and the residue to the 15th to 21st defendants, animal charities (the charities). In June 2007 D’s nephew, Mr King, the claimant (C) had a conversation with her. She was increasingly elderly and frightened of going into a home, and he agreed to move in with her to look after her. He had spent some time in prison as a result of an offence under the Companies Act and was living in the property of a business associate at a rental of £600 a month. He gradually wound up his business, which took about a year, and increasingly spent all his time with D living with her in her property (the property) as her dependant and carer. The property was the main asset in D’s estate. D never discussed the existence of a will with C but on a number of occasions told him that the property would be his after her death. In the period between November 2010 and March 2011 she signed documents some of which were witnessed, to the effect that C should have the property when she died. On 24 March 2011 she drafted a will to that effect but it was never witnessed. On a prior occasion, about four to six months before she died, D presented C with the deeds to the property saying ‘this will be yours when I go’ or words to that effect. As the property was unregistered, the documentation included an epitome of title from 1900 to date. It was clear that D considered that she was giving C what she thought he would need when she died, so that the property would belong to him. At the time, D’s general health was deteriorating. She had not yet become bed-ridden but this happened fairly shortly afterwards. C took the bundle of documents from D, wrapped them in a plastic bag and put them in his wardrobe. He had not seen the deeds before and it seems that the day D gave them to him she had been out with a friend. C believed D collected the deeds that day from a solicitor or bank. D died on 10 April 2011 and the will was admitted to probate on 28 February 2012. C initially brought a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (the 1975 Act) as a dependent of D, but, subsequently, made a claim that D made a donatio mortis causa, or gift in contemplation of death (DMC) of the property to him between four to six months before her death by handing him the deeds to the property saying ‘this will be yours when I go’ or similar words.

Counsel details

Mark Mullen (Radcliffe Chambers, 11 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3QB, tel 020 7831 0081, e-mail clerks@radcliffechambers.com) instructed by Wilsons Solicitors LLP (697 High Road, Tottenham, London N17 8AD, tel 020 8808 753, e-mail info@wilsonllp.co.uk) for the 15th-21st defendants.


Edward Rowntree (Hardwicke Building, New Square, Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3SB, tel 020 7242 2523, e-mail enquiries@hardwicke.co.uk) instructed by Berry & Berry LLP (11 Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1JA, tel 01892 526344, e-mail enquiries@the-solicitors.co.uk) for the claimant. The other defendants did not appear and were not represented.

Legislation referenced

Legislation in bold has further reading - click to view.