The recent case of Reeves -v- Drew & Others (2022) concerns the estate of Kevin Reeves which was worth £100m, making it one of the most valuable probate claims ever determined in this jurisdiction.
Kevin was father to a daughter (Louise) and two sons (Bill and Mark) from his marriage, and a daughter (Lisa) from another relationship. Kevin had come from tough beginnings. He had made his vast fortune by developing a property investment business in Southampton.
Under Kevin’s previous valid will prepared in 2012, 80% of his residuary estate was to be divided equally between three of his children, namely Bill, Louise and Lisa, with the remaining 20% divided equally between two grandchildren (Mark’s children).
However, following Kevin’s death in February 2019, Louise produced a secret will made in 2014 under which she stood to inherit 80% of her father’s residuary estate, including Kevin’s beloved Rolls-Royce Phantom, with the remaining 20% going to her sister, Lisa. Save for £200,000 worth of personal items, Bill was cut out entirely.
Bill and Kevin had enjoyed a close relationship and, since 2011, Kevin had lived in an annex next door to Bill’s house.
Once the 2014 will came to light, a three-year legal battle followed in which Bill alleged that Louise had tricked their father to change his will in her favour. That, as his father was illiterate, he could not have been aware of the contents of the will.
A three-week trial took place with evidence given from 49 witnesses.
The court found that Kevin had not known or approved of the contents of the 2014 will and that Louise had likely engineered the will-making process so that she would get the bulk of the estate. The previous 2012 will was accepted by the court as Kevin’s last will.
Whilst the value of the estate in the above case is unusual, it is sadly not uncommon for siblings and other family members to fall out with each other at what is a very emotional time. If you are involved in a similar dispute it is advisable to seek expert advice early on so that all options of resolving the dispute can be explored as soon as possible.
To try and avoid unhappy family disputes concerning your own will, it is always best to take legal advice from a specialist private client practitioner.