Cutlery for 3 daughters, €3.8m assets for 3 sons
A mother bequeathed in her will her china, delph, and cutlery to her three daughters along with €5,000 each — and the remaining €3.8m of assets in her estate amongst her three sons.
Now, her eldest son, a 53-year-old married father of two, has successfully challenged the will in the High Court after he received only a tiny fraction of the €3.8m estate.
In the will, the eldest son, who works as a hackney driver after being forced out of the family farm business in 2007, received only a 3.5-acre strip of land valued at €42,000 in 2013 when his mother died — today it has a value of €100,000. In contrast, his brother, who is executor of the estate and personal representative of the mother, received gifts from the estate to the value of €3m in 2013 — with the 199 acres of land bequeathed to him valued at €3.55m today.
Now, as a result of a High Court judgment delivered after a six-day hearing between the two sides, Mr Justice Denis McDonald has directed the eldest son to receive around 90 acres of lands to the value of around €1.27m.
These were lands promised by the mother to her eldest son in 1997 before their falling out and before she revoked her original will.
At the end of a 30,000-word judgement in K v K, Mr Justice McDonald found that the mother “did fail in her moral duty to make proper provision for the plaintiff in her last will”. The judge said the mother “does not appear to have considered that she should make any significant provision for her daughters in her will”.
The judge said the eldest son’s annual income from his hackney driver business at the death of his mother in 2013 was €16,000 after tax and he had savings of €3,000.
The father in the family had died in 1996, with all assets transferring to his wife.
In a 1997 will, the mother left a substantial part of the farm to the plaintiff, her eldest son. However, in 2003, she made a new will. Under that 2003 will, the area of land which she proposed to give to the eldest son was substantially reduced.
The judge found that the plaintiff’s contribution to the farm up to his father’s death was significantly more extensive than that of his brothers.
In his judgment, Mr Justice McDonald said he believes the mother’s ‘dramatic change of heart” in revoking the 1997 will seems likely to have been the mother’s unhappiness at the involvement of the eldest son’s in-laws in a property dispute against her, which took place in the courts in 2001/02.