Mother in dispute with son over family estate

A woman and her estranged son are immersed in a courtroom dispute over a family estate.

After Stephen Moore was written out of his parents will, he successfully challenged the move in 2016, claiming his father, who now lives in a care home and has advanced dementia, repeatedly promised the estate would all be his one day.

Challenging the 2016 decision at the Appeal Court, Pamela Moore’s barrister Christopher Pymont said: “Pamela is the wife in a successful marriage of 50 years with rights to a half share of anything her husband had, should it come to it.”

Mr Pymont added that her husband had full mental capacity when he changed his will and had intended “to protect Pamela” if he died first.

The mother of three has the right to live in her home until her death and has an income from her son. But she is angry she no longer owns or controls any of the family land or money.

Mr Pymont said, “The effect of the judge’s order is that Pamela has no assets left. Roger would have made sure Pamela was well provided for.”

He also said the ruling forced the pair to live “locked together”.

He added: “Where you have parties so divided, it is simply not practical to be living right on top of one another. She’d rather live somewhere else.”


Research reveals relaxed attitudes to wills

New research has found that 30 million British people do not have a will.

The Populus research, conducted by Which? revealed that 61% of British adults do not have a will.

The survey further found that people in England are more likely (42%) than those in Wales (35%) and Scotland (31%) to have made wills.

Darren Stott, managing director of Which? Legal said,

“It’s clear that people don’t appreciate the risks of not having a valid will in place. Even if you think you have nothing worth inheriting, this is often not the case.

“Whatever stage of life you’re at, a will offers peace of mind and ensures that your money, property and other possessions go to the right place.

“Giving money to charity in your will can be a tax efficient way to pass your money on.”





Son goes to court to claim inheritance

A man has gone to court to claim the money his late mother left after her last boyfriend launched a claim for a share.


James Campbell, 35, said his late mother Sarah promised he would have everything when she died.


He also claims her will, drawn up 14 years before her death, handed most of her estate to him.

Mr Campbell faces a court fight with his mother’s last boyfriend, Andrew Banfield, 65, who launched a High Court claim to more than half of Mr Campbell’s inheritance.


Mr Banfield says he and Mrs Campbell lived as ‘husband and wife’ for more than 20 years before her death and says he requires a payout from her estate to buy his own home.


Speaking to the court Mr Campbell said, “She told me on several occasions that all she wanted me to do was to find a lovely woman, buy a house, settle down and have a family.


“It’s what my mother wanted. It was my father’s house and then my mum’s house and my mother left it to me.”


Mr Banfield claims to have moved into her home in 1993 and that they became engaged in 1999.


Mr Campbell, however, denies there was ever an engagement.


For Mr Campbell, barrister Elaine Palser said, “He and Mrs Campbell had an extremely close and loving relationship. It was her long-term desire that he inherit the property. This was his childhood home and he lived there – apart from a short stint away – until he moved into rented accommodation with his girlfriend in 2015, just before his mother’s unexpected death.


“Mrs Campbell wrote to her son before making the will saying how much she adored him and that her estate ‘is all yours.’ She told her friends the property was James’.”



Ms Palser argued that Mr Banfield is not entitled to anything from the estate aside from a £5,000 gift which Mrs Campbell left him in her will.


The hearing continues.

Disinherited nephew faked uncle’s will

A man who was left out of his late uncle’s will has been accused of doctoring another version of the will, reinstating his claim and reducing that of other family members, a court has heard.

William Venning, 55, faces charges of conspiring to make a false instrument, conspiring to pervert the course of justice, fraud and converting criminal property.


Venning had originally been a beneficiary in his uncle Peter Ascott’s will. However, after Venning split from his wife, Ascott removed Venning from his will.

Sally Clarke, 57, and Stephen Martin, 52, are also accused of  conspiring to make a false instrument and conspiring to pervert the course of justice charges for allegedly signing the falsified will as witnesses.

Prosecuting barrister Jason Beal told the court,

“These three defendants all played a role in the forging a subsequent use of the will of Peter Ascott. Venning was disinherited by Peter Ascott and wanted to get it back. He did so by producing a will we say was a forgery, either signing it himself or getting somebody else to do it.”

Mr Beal added,

“Hedley Venning was married to Susan Venning for about 20 years but in 2010 Venning and his wife began to have marriage difficulties and separated, a separation which was far from amicable.

“They divorced in December 2011. Susan Venning and Mr Ascott were also very close and following the break-up Mr Ascott took the side of Mrs Venning and made it clear he disapproved of how Hedley had behaved.

“Peter Ascott was a man with strong religious and moral values and his relationship with Hedley Venning soured. As a result of the way he thought his nephew had behaved he decided to change the terms of his will.”


Mr Beal further said: “Sally Clarke and Stephen Martin said they’d been present when Peter Ascott signed the will.

“The third will was examined. It was mostly typed and had a few handwritten entries. One was said to be the signature of Peter Ascott but was not his signature. A handwriting expert examined it and said it showed a pictorial similarity but differed in fluency featuring a number of unexpected pen lifts.

“Hedley Venning used the opportunity to disinherit those he had fallen out with and also took ownership of a Honda Jazz motor car which he sold for £4,000.”

All three defendants deny the charges against them.

The trial continues.


Carer who guided dying millionaire’s will is stripped of her money

A carer who ‘guided the hand’ of her dying millionaire employer as he signed over almost half his £1million fortune to her family has been stripped of the money.


Donna Henderson is alleged to have helped retired banker Marcel Chu sign a will which handed her and her children half of his estate.


Chu had earlier made a will in 2008, dividing his estate between his immediate family and a close friend.


However, the ‘surprising’ deathbed will, dated May 9 2014, just two days before Chu died, left 40% of his wealth to Mrs Henderson and her children.


A handwriting expert concluded that the signature on the will was not Marcel’s and the judge ruled that the dying man lacked mental capacity when the document was signed.


High Court judge Nigel Price has now ruled the will invalid.


Henderson now faces £85,000 in legal costs.


Giving his ruling, Judge Price said: ‘The siblings’ case is that the 2014 will is invalid, or that the circumstances of its making were so suspicious that it cannot be regarded as valid…It may be that it is permissible for a testator to be helped in signing a document, but the scope of such assistance must be limited.


‘There is a distinction between leading and steadying the hand. The distinction is to be drawn when assistance goes so far as to lead in the formation of the letters.’


He added, ‘Although one might have expected a small, or even significant, legacy to be left to a carer, the wholesale change in the will in favour of Mrs Henderson is surprising in all the circumstances.


‘Marcel’s close family appear to have been kept out of the picture in relation to the writing of the new will and the time of the final illness.’


The judge concluded, ‘I have no hesitation in reaching the conclusion that the siblings are entitled to a decree in solemn form in favour of the 2008 will.’


Judge rules cohabitant entitled to portion of partner’s £1.5m estate

The High Court has ruled in favour of a woman who received nothing from her late partner’s £1.5 million estate.

In a ruling handed down on 29 March, the High Court ruled in favour of 79-year-old Joan Thompson, saying she should be entitled to a distribution of Wynford Hodge’s estate.

According to the Law Gazette, in Thompson v Raggett, Thompson pursued a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 against Hodge. He had left his whole estate, valued at £1,535,060, to tenants and friends. The couple had been together for 42 years.

His Honour Judge Jarman QC said Thompson should be given reasonable provision for her maintenance.

Thompson was granted one of Hodge’s properties worth £225,000.

The court heard the property had been purchased with a view to the couple retiring to it. Thompson was also granted £160,000 for her future maintenance and care, and £28,845 to renovate the property.




Petition launched to change law allowing murderer to keep control of his victim’s property

A woman is urging the Scottish Government to change a law which allows her brother control of the home where he strangled their mother to death.

Ross Taggart muredered his mother three years ago but still remains executor of her will.

Taggart, 33, has refused to relinquish control of his mother’s £350,000 estate, despite being in prison for his mother’s murder.

Taggart has further rejected requests for his sister Lorraine Bristow to access her mother’s property to collect sentimental items such as photographs.

Lorraine has backed a petition asking for a change in Scots Law to prevent convicted murderers from acting as executor of the estate of the person they were convicted of killing.

The petition, set up by Lorraine’s husband Stephen Bristow, states: “We would like to see a change in Scots Law that would prevent convicted murderers from being able to act as Administrator/Executor of the estate of the person they were convicted of killing.

“Ross Taggart is currently in jail in Scotland dictating to his lawyers what should be done with the estate of the person he murdered.

“His sister is unable to obtain access to her own mother’s home to collect personal and sentimental items as he continues to reject her requests.

“Lorraine has no pictures of/with her mother from when she was a child, all the family photographs and memories are locked away in a house that a convicted murderer makes the decisions about.

“My wife and her father have been unable to move on with their lives since this happened in 2014 and would like some closure on this.”

Lorraine shared the petition, writing: “Please take a moment to sign and share. Thank you for your continued support.”

Woman awarded over £1 million in damages after inheritance dispute

A woman has been awarded over £1 million in damages following a High Court case about the inheritance of a family farm.

Lucy Habberfield, from Somerset, received the sum in recognition of the work that she had carried out at the family farm over a period of 30 years.

Ms Habberfield said she worked for low wages and with few holidays. She was joined on the farm by her partner Stuart Parker in 2007 on a full-time basis and together they brought up four children while running the business.

Ms Habberfield claimed her father assured her that she would take over the farm when he retired.

When he died, however, her father’s promises and assurances were not carried out.

Ms Habberfield took the case to court for compensation for broken promises despite her mother’s opposition to the claim.

Ms Habberfield said, “I worked hard on the farm for so long and following my fathers drop in health, my siblings, with the help of my mother, made it impossible to stay on the farm. To start with I didn’t know I could do anything about the situation – I think a lot of people in farming are not aware of this law and how it could help them. Once I realised there was something I could do, I knew I had to try for my children’s sake and to give them a secure future.”

Phil Gregory who advised on the case said, “For 30 years Lucy worked seven days a week for low wages on the family farm on the understanding that she would one day take over the farm from her father.

“After hearing evidence from more than 20 witnesses, many of whom were local farmers and farm workers, the judge ruled in favour of Lucy. He found that she had kept her side of the bargain. To compensate her for the detriment that she had suffered over the years she was awarded a sum equivalent to the value of the Woodrow farmland and farm buildings.”

Battle over mother’s £1.8m estate

Three brothers are battling over their late mother’s £1.8million will, a court has heard.

Rachel Heath left her sons Jeremy, Timothy and Dominic equal shares of her fortune when she died in October 2015, aged 93.

Timothy Heath, however, is fighting for a larger share of the money, claiming he was an “unpaid carer” for their mother for years while his brothers “took none of the burden.”

The High Court in London was told that all three brothers were named as executors of the will.

Timothy told the court he looked after Mrs Heath with two other carers who each earned £45,000 a year.

He said, “I didn’t ask to be paid for looking after a parent. But my brothers took none of the burden.

“They pursued their careers and pensions and their incomes and they left me to do what they took advantage of.

“You cannot have three people carers living in a house with two earning £45,000 a year and one getting nothing. I think the estate should honour its debts.”

He added, “I don’t own a house and I don’t have a pension or a steady income.

“I’m not prepared to be bullied by people who have pursued a career with money and don’t value things that don’t attract money, and I don’t think I should be made homeless or put into penury if it can be avoided.”

The judge will make a ruling at a later date.



Online Probate Service opens up

The Probate Service will now accept personal applications online, providing they meet certain criteria.

The Probate Service has said the online application form will continue to be developed to cover a broader range of probate applications in the future.

Personal applications can be made online if only one executor is applying, if there is an original will available even if the person who died made up to four changes to that will, and if the person who died classed England and Wales as their permanent home or intended to return to England and Wales to live permanently.

The Probate Service has said the online application form is easier to understand, but it has said applicants will need to provide supporting documents, including the original will and two photocopies, the death certificate and the associated inheritance tax forms.

It said: “We are looking to enhance this in the future, potentially through links with other departments to gather this information automatically as part of the process.”

The Probate Service added that online applications will be extended for solicitors and other professionals in spring 2018.

Its new online application form includes a statement of truth for people to declare the information is correct, removing the need to swear an oath in person, and the function to pay the fee online, removing the need to post a cheque to the Probate Service.