The following statement is issued by Furley Page Solicitors, acting for Mrs Maureen Wharton, following the judgment handed down at the High Court by Mr Justice Norris today (8 December 2011).
Background: The deathbed will of millionaire businessman George Wharton, who ran holiday camps on the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent, was disputed by his three daughters, who accused their stepmother Mrs Maureen Wharton of pressurising their father into leaving them nothing from his £4million estate. Mr Wharton married his partner of 32 years in September 2008, after he was diagnosed terminally ill. He died three days later.
Judgment: The disputed will was the subject of legal proceedings before Mr Justice Norris at the High Court in London in July. In a complex and lengthy case, more than 40 witnesses gave evidence and after hearing arguments from both sides, the judge said the matter involved “a family at war with itself”. Mr Justice Norris handed down his judgment today (8 Dec). In it he upholds the validity of the will made by Mr Wharton and dismisses the claim made by his daughters. A hearing will be held next year on the issue of legal costs.
Top south east law firm Furley Page represented Mrs Wharton. Peter Hawkes, senior partner and head of dispute resolution, said he was satisfied that the right outcome had been reached. “The will was challenged on the grounds of lack of knowledge and approval of its contents, and undue influence. The judge had to consider whether this was the last true will of a free and capable person.
“Mr Justice Norris said there was simply no evidence to back up some of the allegations made by the daughters about Mrs Wharton unduly influencing George Wharton’s decision to prepare the will. The judge said he was satisfied that the will-making process resulted in a document containing the last true wishes of a free and competent testator,” said Peter Hawkes.
Mrs Maureen Wharton said: “I’m pleased that justice has been done and my husband’s final wishes will now be respected. It is a great relief that this long running case has been resolved. I can now achieve some degree of closure on my feelings of bereavement. It has been a difficult time, particularly as I have had the continuing responsibility of running the business which George and I built up and ran together for 32 years.
“I’m obviously sad about the decision of George’s daughters to employ ‘no win no fee’ lawyers to seek to challenge the will. This has made it very stressful for me at a time when I was mourning the loss of my dearly beloved husband. However, I’m pleased I stood up for what I believed was right. I know George would have been proud of me.
“I’m eternally grateful to sections of my family and long-standing friends who supported me. I also have to thank the doctors who cared for George in his final months and the other professionals who helped the court reach its decision on the will. The court heard all the evidence and has found the will entirely valid. I can now move forward and seek to rebuild my life following George’s passing,” added Mrs Wharton.
Furley Page’s Peter Hawkes said: “This long and complicated case shows just how complex arranging wills and succession planning can become. I would urge people to take specialist legal advice at an early stage when preparing a will.
“And if you think you may need to challenge a person’s will, or if someone is trying to challenge your own inheritance under a will, then you need to enlist the support of a specialist solicitor,” he added.
Furley Page’s dispute resolution team is recommended by the independent legal guides The Legal 500 and Chambers UK, with the latter declaring that the team’s client service is ‘beyond reproach – phenomenal’, while team leader Peter Hawkes, is ‘highly praised by clients for his ability to handle high-pressure disputes’.
For more information call Furley Page on 01227 763939, or email email@example.com
Established in 1725, Furley Page Solicitors has offices in Canterbury, Chatham, Whitstable and Lloyd’s of London, offering legal services across wide-ranging practice areas in commercial and private client law. It is led by 20 partners and supported by more than 100 legal staff. Furley Page is recommended by Chambers and The Legal 500. Furley Page is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and authorised by the Financial Services Authority to offer independent financial advice.
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