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Judge cites “human consequences” of inheritance dispute as calamitous

13th March 2013

However, what took the fictitious Jarndyce siblings several generations to do – that is to dispose of an entire legacy through legal bills and lawyers’ fees – the three siblings involved in this real-life case took just four years to achieve.

The inheritance dispute began when the brother, Peter, discovered he had been “cut out” of his mother’s Will during a visit to a solicitor where she had been accompanied by his sister Julia Hawes, a former magistrate. The Will was changed two years before the mother’s death and the other siblings were not informed of the changes.

At a previous court hearing into the matter in 2011 Mrs Hawes was ordered by the court to repay £18,000 taken from her mother’s bank account prior to her death. The court ruled that the mother had lacked “knowledge and approval” of the changes to her Will as a result of dementia.

Now, the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of Peter and his other sister who challenged the Will on the death of their mother in 2009. The previous Last Will and Testament document, signed in 1996, has been given precedence and the estate, if there had been anything left after the acrimonious legal battle, would have been split three ways.

Lord Justice Mummery said, “The cost of contesting [the mother’s] will is a calamity for this family in every way. Even worse are the human consequences for a once close-knit and loving family.”

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