In 2014, a 50-year long estate battle over a £2 million house finally came to an end, after a senior judge ruled that it belonged to the daughter of an alleged mistress.
Businessman Albert Line died in 1961 and the house is currently owned by Audrey Line, the daughter of Albert and his alleged mistress. Albert Line and the mother of Audrey, Norah Duff, ran a hotel together until his death, whereupon his interest in the business was transferred to Norah. Norah continued to run the hotel and when she died, the assets moved to her daughter, Audrey Line. Audrey sold the hotel business and bought the £2 million house, known as Harrogate House, which overlooks the beach.
However, Albert Line’s daughter from his wife, Kathleen, contested the inheritance, saying that her father had always been faithful, that he hadn’t had a mistress, and he couldn’t be Audrey’s father as he was ‘impotent’. As a result, the transfer of wealth to Norah and Audrey was invalid. Kathleen maintained that the administration of her father’s will was suspect, and that a second will that had left her a quarter of his estate had mysteriously gone missing. Kathleen also claimed that her father had told her several times that the hotel business would be given to her.
The two women have been embroiled in a bitter fight since their father’s death. The judge, making a final ruling, said that there was no evidence of any ‘deliberate concealment’ of evidence by Audrey and further stated: ‘In the light of my conclusions on the merits, I will make a declaration that Dr Kathleen Baker has no beneficial interest whatsoever in Harrogate House’.
The 50-year saga ended with hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees, with the original owner winning the right to continue living in the home.
Negotiation and Settlement
Litigation is the option of last resort. Negotiation and settlement is always preferable to a court battle. An expert in that area of law will have a good idea of whether litigation is likely to be successful or not. But ultimately, a bitter estate battle that lasts for 50 years is stressful and costly for everyone involved.
The Basics of Will Disputes
If you are considering contesting a will, or if you find yourself defending a will from a contest, there are several basic things you need to know:
- Strict time frames apply
- Only certain people (usually family members of the deceased) have the legal right to contest a will
- You will need expert legal advice, to keep costs down and to obtain a fair outcome
Bryan Mitchell is an Accredited Specialist in Succession Planning (law that deals with wills and estates) and offers a FREE 10-minute phone consultation. If you need help, please contact us today.