Manitoba Court of King's Bench upholds codicil despite claims of undue influence and oral agreement

The lawyer who helped the testator ensured that no undue influence was exerted over her

Manitoba Court of King's Bench upholds codicil despite claims of undue influence and oral agreement

In a recent ruling, the Manitoba Court of King's Bench dismissed a plaintiff's claim over a contested piece of farmland and upheld a codicil that bequeathed the property to his siblings.

The case centred on a piece of property, the NW quarter. The property is part of a farming operation originally owned by Kathleen Jorgenson and her husband, Edward Jorgenson, since 1962

The plaintiff, who had farmed the NW quarter and another piece of property, the SW quarter, with his parents, claimed entitlement to the NW quarter on several grounds. He argued that the codicil dated February 3, 2012, which bequeathed the NW quarter to his siblings, was invalid due to Kathleen's lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. Additionally, he asserted an oral agreement made in 1980 entitled him to the property and claimed unjust enrichment.

The defendant, the executrix of Kathleen’s estate and one of the plaintiff's seven sisters countered these claims. She maintained that Kathleen had testamentary capacity and was not under undue influence when executing the codicil. Furthermore, she argued that no oral agreement existed and that the plaintiff’s claims were barred under The Statute of Frauds, which required contracts for the sale of land to be in writing.

The Court of King’s Bench upheld the codicil's validity, finding no evidence of undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity. Testimonies from the executrix and the lawyer who assisted Kathleen demonstrated that Kathleen understood the codicil’s content and implications. Kathleen, who was described as strong and independent, had actively participated in managing her financial affairs up until 2012.

The lawyer who assisted Kathleen testified that she took steps to ensure no undue influence was exerted on Kathleen, including advising her to seek independent legal counsel. Despite Kathleen’s declining sharpness, the lawyer noted her ability to follow conversations and point out errors, indicating she had the mental capacity to make informed decisions about her estate.

The court found no evidence supporting the existence of an oral agreement entitling the plaintiff to the NW quarter. The evidence, including the wills executed in 1983 and the subsequent legal transactions, contradicted the plaintiff’s claim of an agreement made in 1980. The court acknowledged the plaintiff's significant farming contributions but viewed these as part of his farming operations rather than fulfilling an agreement with his parents.

Regarding the unjust enrichment claim, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish that Kathleen was enriched without a legal reason. The lessor-lessee relationship between Kathleen and the plaintiff justified any benefits from farming the NW quarter.

Ultimately, the court dismissed the plaintiff's claims and upheld the codicil, which bequeathed the NW quarter to Kathleen’s daughters.

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