The case of Michael Inchbald who died in 2013 aged 92 has hit the headlines. He was a renowned Interior Designer who worked on the QE2, Claridges and at the Savoy Hotel. Mr Inchbald died leaving an estate worth £20 million in his Will which was made in 2007. His estate was to be split equally between his two children, Courtenay and Amanda.
Quite simple you may think! However, the Will has been challenged by the deceased’s son, Courtenay, on the basis that at the time the Will was made the deceased was suffering from dementia and did not know or approve the contents of the Will. If this is correct, then the previous Will written in 2005 should succeed, which gives Courtenay half of the estate with the other half held in Trust for Amanda for life. Under that Will, Amanda would not have direct access to a fortune of £10 million, but only the income from it and the capital would then revert to her brother, Courtenay or his children when she passes.
Lawyers for Courtenay argued that the move from a Life Interest Trust in 2005 to an absolute bequest in 2007 was a fundamental change which the deceased did not understand. In addition, there was no evidence to show that the deceased appreciated that he was making such a significant change. It was claimed by Courtenay that the final Will was not the deceased’s idea, but had been drafted by his solicitor, probably at the instigation of his ex-wife, Mrs Duncan whose involvement is significant because she was not impartial. By 2007 Mrs Duncan’s relationship with Courtenay had broken down whereas she was very close to Amanda who was motivated by her sense that she needed to protect Amanda’s interest.
Courtenay’s Lawyers argued that his father had been worried about Amanda’s ability to cope with a large amount of money. However, Amanda argued that she did not think that her father came up with this thinking on his own – he was not a man who would be forced into doing anything he didn’t want to do. He was very particular and would not be pushed around by anyone and wanted to “dot the I’s and cross the T’s” and he checked everything. Amanda advised that she never spoke to her father about his financial affairs or his Will.
Amanda’s Lawyers argued that the 2007 Will mirrored one which Mr Inchbald had made back in 1997. She argued that far from the suggested conspiracy, here was a man, very content at having an overview of his assets to make a Will which brings a quality to both of his offspring. There was nothing sinister, unusual or unreasonable in what he did in September 2007.
The desire of parents to deal with children on the basis of equality in the terms of their Will is neither unusual nor suspicious. Amanda’s Lawyers argued that Courtenay was trying to make “the mundane appear sinister and the reasonable appear unreasonable”. Her Lawyers agreed that there were poor family relations, but that had not affected the preparation or execution of the deceased’s Will. It is considered that Courtenay is pursuing his counterclaim to place himself in some position of advantage or control over Amanda.
The High Court hearing continues.