Family Discord Over £18 Million Estate

The best way to ensure family peace after you are gone is to make a professionally drafted will and to be open with your loved ones about your intended bequests. In one case where discord sadly prevailed, a widow and her stepdaughter fought it out in court over a successful financier’s £18 million estate.

By his penultimate will, the businessman left half his estate to his widow after certain special bequests. The remainder was placed in trust for his three children by a previous marriage and a number of other beneficiaries. Four years before he died, however, he made a fresh will that appointed his widow as a trustee and executor and gave her a life interest in the income from the trust.

The validity of that will was challenged by his daughter, who claimed that he had not understood or approved its contents. She also alleged that he had been in a frail condition in his final years and had been bullied and dominated by his wife, who was accused of bringing undue influence to bear upon him.

In rejecting those arguments, however, the High Court rejected claims that the widow had proposed or pressed for the changes in the will. The businessman knew his own mind, his bequests were rational and there were no suspicious circumstances in the will’s execution. The Court also noted that overturning the will would bring little or no tangible benefit to the daughter, not least because of the Inheritance Tax implications of doing so.