Two brothers whose late mother founded a well-known crystal company in Co Galway believe she had testamentary capacity when she made her will, the High Court has heard.
Ms Justice Siobhán Stack was told that others who knew Mary Munnelly, including a man who worked for her for 30 years, had provided evidence she knew what she was doing in June 2016 when she made her will.
Ms Munnelly, who was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, died in 2018.
Barrister Declan Whittle, for Ian Munnelly, one of Ms Munnelly’s two sons, said Ms Munnelly’s entire estate consisted of a house – the family home – which she left to Ian.
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Because her other son Aengus had already got the family business, Connemara Celtic Crystal, based in Moycullen, Aengus had received his share of the estate and it was always understood by Aengus the house would be left to Ian, he said.
It was important the court understood that context when considering whether to admit Ms Munnelly’s will to proof, Mr Whittle said.
The court heard Ms Munnelly, who founded the crystal business in 1972, predeceased her husband, who died in April 2020.
Ms Justice Stack said the information about the family business being transferred to Aengus put her “at ease” in the context of distribution of the estate.
Mr Whittle said his side had sought a medical report but a doctor said he could not give the necessary certificate of capacity because a geriatrician had in early 2015 referred to cognitive impairment in relation to Ms Munnelly.
Counsel exhibited various letters to support his case Ms Munnelly had capacity in June 2016.
That included a geriatrician’s letter of April 29th, 2015, which said, inter alia, it would be wise to consider making a will while Ms Munnelly retains capacity. Other letters indicated fluctuating capacity but a geriatrician’s letter of March 23rd, 2016, some two months before the will was executed, described Ms Munnelly as cognitively and functionally stable. Another letter of November 2016 indicated no real concerns about capacity, Mr Whittle said.
It seemed from the evidence her cognitive decline did not set in until early 2017, counsel said. While there were episodes before that, she appeared to have been stable and functionally capable around March and November 2016 and this was in line with affidavits provided by some of those around her, including from Ian who said a deterioration was noted in early 2017.
The judge was told Ms Munnelly and her husband managed with minimum home help up to December 2016 and a permanent carer was employed from January 2017. Other evidence included she was lucid when attending a family gathering in her native Co Clare on June 3rd 2015.
A man who worked for Ms Munnelly for 30 years, and who was a witness to her will, said she was “strong-willed” and knew what she was doing when she executed the will.
A tax consultant in the family business for 30 years said in an affidavit he believed Ms Munnelly knew what she was doing on the day in question. He referred to Ms Munnelly talking of other matters that day and inquiring about the health of an acquaintance.
In response to the judge querying why the will mentioned the company shares when it appeared they had been transferred, Mr Whittle said that may have reflected Ms Munnelly seeking “to be sure, to be sure”.
The judge asked that a supplemental affidavit be provided to state when the shares were transferred and adjourned the matter to next month.