A High Court Judge has called on attorneys to be more circumspect when executing property transactions involving elderly citizens.
Justice Frank Seepersad made the call yesterday as he determined a lawsuit, in which the family of an 85-year-old man from Beetham Gardens claimed that he was duped into signing over interest in his property to a neighbour who cared for him periodically.
Aldwyn Williams initiated the lawsuit against La Toya Joseph before he passed away in August 2017, and it was continued by his daughter Marilyn Williams.
According to her evidence in the case, Williams’ daughter claimed that her ailing father learned that the property had been transferred after he asked her to pay his electricity bill and found out that the account was in Joseph’s name.
With the case still pending at the time of Williams’ death, Joseph proceeded to remove his belongings as she pointed to a deed, which was executed in late 2015 and purported to give her life interest in the property.
Testifying before Seepersad, Joseph claimed that she would frequently assist Williams with chores and in making visits to his doctor. She claimed that in 2015 he had requested that she take him to an attorney to execute the deed in relation to the property and she complied.
In his assessment of the evidence, Seepersad accepted that Joseph would have assisted Williams from time to time but questioned her role in executing the document.
Seepersad described Joseph as evasive as he noted that she was not forthright in her evidence over the transfer.
He also ruled that the evidence provided by Williams’ daughter was more trustworthy.
Seepersad said her evidence was bolstered by the fact that her father initiated the lawsuit before his death and took steps to prepare a will with her as the beneficiary, which she only found out about after.
Seepersad also noted that the attorney who facilitated the transfer did not provide the written instructions he allegedly received from Williams, as he claimed that he could not locate it because his office had moved.
Seepersad stated that the case highlighted the need for changes in conveyancing that would prevent such incidents involving the elderly from reoccurring.
He suggested that a mandatory revocation clause could be used by attorneys in cases of deeds of gift to allow for changes without lengthy and costly litigation.
He also recommended that such deeds be executed by independent attorneys and not those who prepared them for added protection.
Despite his ruling in the case, Seepersad did not order that Joseph immediately surrender control of the property as she still has a separate pending case over improvements to it which she allegedly financed after she took possession.
Williams was represented by Fulton Wilson, while Lemul Murphy represented Joseph.