Daughter sues father over property inheritance

Daughter sues father over property inheritance


Financial advisors are unanimous in the insistence of a will to ward off any post-humus family battles. Sometimes however, even this is not enough.

In the latest high profile case, a family has gone to court over a dispute over the sale of an inherited property. The case is due to last 3 days, and is expected to accrue legal costs rocketing to six figure sums.

Anne Marie Jeffery claims that her father, Denis Gretton, failed to get an appropriate amount of money for a large five-bedroom property on the Isle of Wight, inherited from an elderly relative.

The property, Townshend House on The Parade was split into three equal shares to Ms. Jeffery, Mr Gretton and her brother Nicholas Gretton, by Mr Gretton’s mother, Paula Beken, who died in 2002.

After receiving a third of the profit from the £850,000 sale of the home, Ms. Jeffery is demanding a further £165,000 on the grounds that Mr Gretton breached his duty as a trustee.

Her claims include £30,000 for loss of rental income and £91,000 for reduction in sale proceeds.

Ms. Jeffery argues that, had her father sold the property at the peak of the boom, it would have fetched up to £1.1 million. She also claims that, in spite the building’s seaside location, Mr Gretton failed to rent it out for six years – in spite of experts opinion that it could have been let at £5,500 a week, and for up to £30,000 in peak summer season.

Although under the terms of the original will, the property was to be made use of by Mrs Beken’s husband Keith for the rest of his lifetime following her death, he in fact signed a deed of variation giving up this right in 2002.

Ms. Jeffery was not made aware of this fact until May 2007, following Mr Beken’s death in the February of that year.

The court heard how there had been a “serious breakdown in relations” between Ms. Jeffery and her parents, who argue that she is motivated by “greed and vindictiveness.”

Her father counters that the property was in an inappropriate condition to be put up for rent, and that he didn’t have the capital to fund a renovation. He alleges that his daughter agreed that it should remain empty.

Whilst the Mr Getton’s defence cites an ongoing family dispute as motivation for the case, as opposed to straight up mismanagement of the inheritance, the case certainly highlights the need for clear and careful execution of a will.

In recent years, there has been a marked increase of families going to court over inheritance. This has been in part due to the property boom causing values to sky rocket, meaning that pre-recession, more people were dying as millionaires than ever before. 

 Another factor is the increasing incidence of complicating issues such as divorce and remarriage. With families growing ever more complex and diverse as society grows ever more litigious, it seems inevitable that the increasing numbers of families will be taking their inheritance battles to High Court.

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