Woman who was left nothing in father’s will loses appeal against costs order

Daughter lodged caveat delaying processing of will of her father, who drew up a new will just a month before he died

A daughter who was left nothing in her father’s will and filed a legal notice that delays the processing of the estate has lost an appeal against a costs order.

Gordon Farrell, a merchant from Cootehill, Co Cavan, who died a widower in November 2019, was survived by four children but left all of his estate to his son.

The 87-year-old died four days after being in an accident and just 16 days after he had made a new will in the offices of a solicitor who had acted for him for many years. The execution of the will was witnessed by the solicitor and the solicitor’s trainee.

In a previous will in January 2007, Mr Farrell left his estate to his wife and, in the event that she should predecease him, to his four children in equal shares. His wife died in May 2019.


In a judgment published on Thursday by the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Senan Allen said it appeared Mr Farrell had not told his children, or at least his daughter Karen Farrell, of his intention to make a new will or, after the event, that he had done so.

When Ms Farrell was shown a copy of the new will in January 2020, she decided she wanted to check the veracity of the original, and “relentlessly” made contact by way of telephone calls, emails and letters to the solicitor and the executors of the will, who were two friends of the late Mr Farrell.

The High Court was later critical of the solicitor for not engaging with Ms Farrell though it was clear “she was not altogether easy to deal with,” Mr Justice Allen said.

Ms Farrell lodged a caveat against the will in February 2020. Filing a caveat with the Probate Office prevents it from issuing a grant of probate for six months and is usually a precursor to challenging the validity of a will. The caveat was renewed in August 2020, leading to proceedings eventually being taken against Ms Farrell by solicitors acting for the executors of her father’s estate.

In a letter to Ms Farrell in October 2021, the solicitors for the executors said they were satisfied that her late father had signed the will in the presence of two witnesses, had acted freely while doing so, had the capacity to make his will, and knew and approved of the contents of the will before signing it.

In another letter the following month, the solicitors suggested Ms Farrell could inspect the will on a date later that month but expressed the view that they did not know what the reasons for the proposed inspection were. The offer to make an appointment to inspect the will was not taken up, Mr Justice Allen noted.

At the time of his death, the judge noted, Mr Farrell and one or more of his immediate neighbours were in discussion with a supermarket chain about the acquisition of a site that would include part of the garden of the deceased’s home. Following his death, the negotiations with the supermarket were continued by the executors.

In August 2020, Ms Farrell sent an email to the supermarket “to say that there was ‘a legal problem with the portion of the site’ owned by the deceased,” Mr Justice Allen said.

In July 2022 an order was made in the High Court, on consent, setting aside the caveats to the will and in February of the following year an order for costs was made. At the costs hearing Ms Farrell said she had filed the caveat because she had been blocked in her original attempts to inspect her father’s will and that by the time the offer of an appointment was made to her to view the document in November 2021, she had a “belly full” of the executors’ solicitors.

An award of certain legal costs against Ms Farrell made by the High Court was appealed by her to the Court of Appeal, which in its ruling on Thursday found against her. In his judgment, which was supported by Mr Justice Costello and Mr Justice Pilkington, Mr Justice Allen said Ms Farrell “never had any grounds on which to doubt the testamentary capacity of the deceased or the due execution of the will ... Her complaint that she had been disinherited was premised on the validity of the will.”

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent