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Legal action by Celine Cawley's daughter against father concludes

The daughter of Celine Cawley and Eamon Lillis, who was convicted of his wife’s manslaughter, took the case to remove his entitlements to the couple’s shared assets.

Eamon Lillis pictured outside court in 2010
Eamon Lillis pictured outside court in 2010
Image: :Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

EAMON LILLIS REMAINS the co-owner of joint assets that belonged to him and his wife, whom he was convicted of killing in 2010.

The court case on the assets, which was brought by the late Celine Cawley’s brother and sister Christopher Cawley and Susanna Cawley, and daughter Georgia Lillis (18) came to a conclusion today.

Celine Cawley died at the family home in Howth on 15 December 2008 and her husband Eamon Lillis was imprisoned for her manslaughter.

Last February Lillis was sentenced to six years and 11 months for the manslaughter of Celine, who was killed at their home in Howth in December 2008.

Cawley had appointed Lillis to be the sole executor of her estate.

Because Lillis was sent to prison, it meant that under the Succession Act 1965, he was precluded from taking any share in the estate, and any share would be distributed as if he had died before the deceased.

This means that the beneficiary, Georgia Lillis, is solely beneficially entitled to the residuary estate of Celine Cawley under the trusts declared in her will.

On 24 March 2010, Lillis acknowledged that he had no entitlement to his late wife’s assets that were held in her own name.

However, there were a number of joint assets in question.

The court case involved the former family home at Rowan Hill which was held in both Lillis and Celine Cawley’s names, worth €750,000.

However the valuer said that if the house “had no unfortunate history” the value would be in the region of €1m to €1,100,000.

The second asset was a house at Tramway Court, Sutton, County Dublin, valued at €220,000. It is rented to tenants.

The third was bonds in joint names valued at €45,000, two joint bank accounts, one with Permanent TSB and one with Bank of Ireland, which had credit balances at €24,500 when Celine Cawley died.

However one of the accounts is overdrawn and the other has reduced since then.

Ms Cawley’s brother Chris, and sister Susanna, brought the legal proceedings against Lillis and argued the assets should go to Georgia Lillis, who turned 18 last year.

The judge, Miss Justice Laffoy, concluded that the joint assets do not form part of the estate of Cawley to the exclusion of Eamon Lillis, and that the joint assets have accrued to him as a half-share and held on a constructive trust for Cawley’s estate.

Judge Laffoy added:

The issues raised in these proceedings demonstrate that, ideally, there should be legislation in place which prescribes the destination of co-owned property in the event of the unlawful killing of one of the co-owners by another co-owner.

The other one-half share were given to the trusts as part of Cawley’s estate.

Lillis must deal with his late wife’s siblings and his daughter, as they are the plaintiffs, in how to deal with the joint assets, such as the rent received out of the Tramway Court residence.

Judge Laffoy also stated the optimum solution would be for agreement to be reached between the plaintiffs and the Lillis as to the mode of division of the joint assets and for the defendant, as trustee, to transfer the assets to be appropriated to the estate of the Deceased, or, alternatively, “to participate in the realisation of the assets and a division of the proceeds of sale thereof, if that is the agreed solution”.

“Again, the optimum solution would be for the plaintiffs and the defendant to reach agreement in relation to such accounting and, as appropriate, to factor in the result in the division of the joint assets,” said Judge Laffoy.

However, if agreement cannot be achieved, this aspect of the proceedings will have to be dealt with either by the Court or referred to the office of the Examiner of the High Court to conduct necessary inquiries and accounts.

Read: Daughter of Celine Cawley takes legal action against dad>

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