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Siblings dispute Will dividend, arguing that richer brother should inherit less

View profile for Paul Branch
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Two sisters are disputing the division of their mother’s £1.5m estate which, according to a Will made in 2013, split the estate equally with their brother.

Jennifer Penny and Catherine Kennard contend that the 2013 Will is not valid as their mother, Freda Burgess, who died in 2016, had suffered a fall just nine days before signing it and was too frail to understand its terms.

Instead, they believe that a Will signed in 2012 by Mrs Burgess and her late husband Jim should be regarded as her final wishes.

The 2012 document contains the following passage written by Mr Burgess: “I am delighted that by reason of his own endeavours the circumstances of my son are much improved to those which pertained in earlier years so that I felt I could benefit his sisters somewhat more.”

The initial Will then goes on to apportion the estate between their children in a 40:40:20 split, with their son, Chris, receiving the smallest amount.

The sisters’ barrister, Katherine McQuail, told the High Court that the 2013 Will had not been properly witnessed and the Court “should not be satisfied that Freda knew and approved the contents.”

She added that there had been “a lack of any family wide discussion either before or after the 2013 Will was purportedly executed.”

Chris Burgess denied trying to control his mother’s finances, insisting that he had assisted his mother in handling his father’s Will after his death and had followed her wishes and been transparent in his actions.

His barrister, Thomas Dumont, said that his client “did his utmost to provide his mother with comfort and support when she needed it” and “was surprised by his mother’s desire to change her Will, but it was her idea and he had never raised it with her.”

Judge Catherine Newman QC reserved her decision in the case.