MacNairs + Wilson

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Families Battle Over Division of Estates

Estate disputes and legal challenges to wills are becoming more common and reports of such cases are often reported in the media.

In many situations, the disputes are between family members of the deceased and can frequently be quite bitter in nature.

Son Disinherited in Will

In one such case, a legal battle has erupted between the family of deceased aristocrat, St John Durival, over the validity of his will, reports the Daily Mail.

St John Durival, who was the 2nd Viscount Rochdale, died in February last year at the age of 77. He left behind an estate worth an estimated £11.3 million.

His son, who is now Lord Rochdale, had expected to inherit the bulk of his father’s estate, along with his title, under the terms of a will signed by his father in 1991. However, after his father’s death, Lord Rochdale discovered that his father had changed his will to completely disinherit him and instead had left his entire estate to his wife, Lord Rochdale’s stepmother, and her eldest son from a previous marriage.

Validity of Will Challenged

Lord Rochdale has challenged the validity of this amended will, saying that the will as signed in 1991 should be taken as his father’s correct will. He claims that his stepmother had deliberately turned his father against his family and convinced him to leave everything to her family instead.

He is being sued by his stepmother after he blocked probate of his father’s will, and is in turn countersuing her to have the amendments made to the 1991 will set aside.

The Daily Mail has also recently reported on a second family estate battle, this time from Australia, which concerns the estate of billionaire Len Buckeridge.

Mr Buckeridge died in 2014 and left behind an estate worth around $2.5 billion that he had accumulated in the construction industry. After his death, disputes developed over his estate involving numerous parties, including ex-partners, six of his children and eight grandchildren.

Mediation Unsuccessful

Mediation has taken place in an attempt to resolve the various disputes, however this has proved unsuccessful, and the case now looks set to head to court for resolution.

The challenges to his estate include one from a former partner, who claims Mr Buckeridge had promised to leave her the house in Perth where they lived together. However, that property, which is valued at around $8 million, is actually owned by a family holding company.

Two of Mr Buckeridge’s teenage granddaughters have also raised legal challenges to the estate. Their inheritance amounts to $90 million, but this is being held in trust for them until 2019. They are apparently concerned that they will not receive the full value of their inheritance, because the trust is under the control of three of Mr Buckeridge’s sons.

Contact Us

Challenging a will can be a complex affair and it is important to take specialist legal advice as soon as possible. If you would like to find out more about the possibility of challenging a will, then contact our expert lawyers today for advice on your prospects for success and the process involved.

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