Mon 05 Feb 2018

Anderson v Wilson - challenges to earlier transactions by disappointed beneficiaries

The recent case of Anderson and another v Wilson [2018] CSOH 5 has confirmed that it is not possible for beneficiaries to sue for damages for a loss they claim to have suffered because of someone taking advantage of their father which resulted in them ultimately inheriting less.

The beneficiaries claimed that their loss was caused as a result of their father selling some land for significantly less than its actual value which had the effect of reducing the value of his estate.  When their father passed away the beneficiaries' mother inherited his estate.  It was only after their mother passed away, that the beneficiaries were to receive their inheritance.

The beneficiaries claimed that their father had agreed to sell the land at too low a value only because of either (i) fraud, (ii) facility and circumvention (which is the legal term for where someone is in a weakened mental state and someone else takes advantage of this) or (iii) undue influence (which is the legal terms for where someone takes advantage of influence they have over another person) on the part of the individual who purchased the land.  They were, however, unsuccessful in persuading the Judge that claims on any of these bases should be allowed to go ahead.

As regards to their claim of fraud the Judge was satisfied that it was bound to fail because they had not given a proper explanation in their pleadings of the basis on which any fraud was alleged to have occurred.  You cannot proceed with a claim based on fraud committed by another party unless you are able to do this.  The Judge was also satisfied that the purchaser did not owe any legal duty to the beneficiaries not to commit any fraud against their father so there was no legal basis which would entitle them to personally recover damages, even if it could have been shown that a fraud had occurred.   The beneficiaries were too far removed.  It was the beneficiaries' father who would have had the right to raise an action in relation to any fraud.  Following his death, it was their mother, who was once removed, who then inherited their father's estate.  The beneficiaries only inherited after the death of their mother, making them twice removed.

The beneficiaries got into difficultly with their claims of facility and circumvention and undue influence because they were asking the court to award them damages.  The Judge held that, in these types of circumstances, there was no entitlement for beneficiaries to claim damages. If the beneficiaries could prove that the transfer of the land had been improper because of that type of behaviour then they should challenge the deed which transferred the land.  The legal way in which this could be done was to raise an action to have the deed reduced so that it was as if the transfer of the land had never occurred.  They could not avoid this process and simply try to get financial compensation by an award of damages.

Make an Enquiry

From our offices we serve the whole of Scotland, as well as clients around the world with interests in Scotland. Please complete the form below, and a member of our team will be in touch shortly.

Morton Fraser MacRoberts LLP will use the information you provide to contact you about your inquiry. The information is confidential. For more information on our privacy practices please see our Privacy Notice