Son wins case against will as judge rules mother ‘failed in her moral duty’

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Another day, another family argument over a will ends in a court…

This week, our attention was drawn to a story in the Independent about a will where three sisters were left china, cutlery and €5,000, while the remaining €3.8 million of assets went to their mother’s three sons.

However, the oldest son successfully challenged the will in the High Court after receiving a smaller fraction of the €3.8 million estate, so that he inherits farmland worth €1.27 million, instead of a smaller parcel of land valued at €100,000.

Claims of assault and abuse

During the six-day court hearing, the judge observed the animosity between the parties was “palpable”. The court heard the man was no longer speaking to all except one of his five siblings, and the dispute involved claims of assault and verbal abuse.

The oldest son had been forced out of the family’s farm business in 2007 and in the 2013 will he received only a 3.5 acre area of land. His brother, however, inherited gifts valued at €3 million in 2013, with the value of the 199 acres of land rising to €3.55 million today.

Mr Justice McDonald said the mother had “failed in her moral duty” to provide for the plaintiff in her last will, and that her oldest son had satisfied the onus to demonstrate that failure.

No significant provision for daughters

The plaintiff’s sisters had largely been ignored in the mother’s will too, with the bulk of her will going to two of her sons. The judge said the woman hadn’t appeared to consider she should make any significant provision for her daughters. However, the three sisters did not challenge the will. The daughters gave evidence in the case, but the judge observed none of them appeared to be living in “straitened circumstances”.

The oldest son said he’d been promised 90 acres and this promise had been reflected in the will his mother made in 1997. this was later rescinded when a new will was drawn up in 2013. The judge ruled the 1997 promise was “testamentary contract” and entitled to be enforced.

Neither the man nor the members of his family can be named for legal reasons.

Family business

The court heard the oldest son had at one point worked 70 hours a week in his family’s business, and that his father and uncle both intended to leave the farm in equal shares to the three brothers. The property went to his mother when the man’s father died in 1996.

The judge added a “just and prudent parent” would have made more significant provision for their son. During the years after the father’s death, land disputes took place and assaults were alleged to have taken place, the latter of which is disputed.

No known next of kin or trying to trace missing heirs? Finders International Ireland offers fast, reliable and professional services. Contact us on +353 (0)1 5676940, Fax: +353 (0)1 640 1899 or freephone (Ireland only): 1800 210 210.

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