Judge rules in family will case

A son accused of bullying his father into writing a will in his favour last night won a bitter High Court fight to keep his family home.During a four-day hearing, the court in London heard a succession of mudslinging between siblings as they battled over a Norfolk bungalow that has torn their family apart.

A son accused of bullying his father into writing a will in his favour last night won a bitter High Court fight to keep his family home.

During a four-day hearing, the court in London heard a succession of mudslinging between siblings as they battled over a Norfolk bungalow that has torn their family apart.

Last night it remained unclear how much the trial had cost and who would have to pay for it, but legal sources predicted the legal bill would run into a five-figure sum.

Widower Clifford Turner died in November 2003 aged 77, leaving his youngest son Neil Turner his £200,000 home, Red Roofs, in Shipdham, near Dereham, under a will dated January 12, 1998.

Mr Turner's other son, Keith Turner, of Sheppey Road, Maidstone, Kent, and daughter, Beverley Cooper, of Norfolk, split the rest of his assets which were worth less than the house.

Keith alleged that following a series of strokes their father did not know what he was doing when he made the will, that he lacked legal capacity and that he had been “unduly influenced” by Neil into making the “unfair” document. Beverley supported Keith's case.

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Keith called for a will made in summer 1997, and which split Mr Turner's assets equally three ways, to be declared his last true will.

But yesterday Judge Proudman rejected those claims, observing that Keith had aired many “family grievances” in court but had shown little “factual evidence” that his brother had done anything wrong or that Mr Turner was so ill that the 1998 will should be declared null and void.

Among the most serious allegations, said the judge, was one that Neil had taken large sums of cash from Mr Turner's bank account, but there was no documentary evidence to back up the claim.

“The court can only decide the case on the basis of the evidence,” said Judge Proudman. “Keith says that if he had counsel like his brother's, he would have been able to present a much stronger case.

“But his claim fails not for that reason, but because the evidence is not just there.”

Keith had alleged Neil “sponged” off their father, and said by the time he made the will he was incapable of making decisions for himself and could only talk about tea, World War Two and horses because of a series of strokes he had suffered.

But Neil contended that, although Mr Turner was not in the best of health, he had retained all his faculties and had wanted to leave him Red Roofs following a house swap in 1996.

Then, Neil had moved into Red Roofs with his wife Julia and their children and Mr Turner had moved to a house known as The Forge, in Shipdham.

Neil said Mr Turner had promised him and his wife that Red Roofs would be theirs for life as it was their family home.

After hearing evidence about Mr Turner's state of health in 1997 and 1998, Judge Proudman ruled that he did have legal capacity to make the will.

“He had his good and bad days but all that is far short of a mental condition depriving him of mental capacity,” said the judge, who added that Mr Turner was “idolised” by his children.

“It is plain he was aware of all family members who had a claim on his bounty.”

She added that Mr Turner had made a number of specific legacies, which further suggested he was still mentally agile, and had been seen three times by a solicitor who had no doubt he knew what he was doing.

Turning to the undue influence allegation, the judge said that, although retired farrier Neil argued with his father, there was no evidence to suggest he had bullied him into making the will.

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