Grandchildren whose lack of visits ‘hurt’ retired solider lose legal battle over his will

A retired soldier who was “hurt” that his grandchildren did not visit him more often was entitled to leave them only £50 each of his £500,000 fortune, a judge has ruled.

“Strong-willed” Frederick Ward Snr died in 2020, splitting almost all of his estate between his children, Terry Ward and Susan Wiltshire.

However, his late son Fred Jnr’s five adult children were handed just £50 each in envelopes, leading to a family row.

Mr Ward, who died aged 91, told his legal representatives he was upset because he had not been visited by Fred Jnr’s children when he was in hospital three times with a lung condition.

After learning they had been all but disinherited, the five – sisters Carol Gowing, Angela St Marseille, Amanda Higginbotham, Christine Ward and Janet Pett – sued, claiming they should get their late father’s one-third share of their grandfather’s money.

They argued that their uncle and aunt had “unduly influenced” their relative into changing his will at their expense.

‘Entirely rational’

However, their case was thrown out by High Court judge Master James Brightwell, who said it was “entirely rational” for the “disappointed” grandfather to cut out his grandchildren because of their “very limited contact” with him in his last years.

He said that “the evidence does not come close to persuading me” that Terry Ward had “coerced” his father or that Mrs Wiltshire had “controlled” him such as to cast doubt on his will.

In his ruling, Master Brightwell described the 2018 will as “rational” in the circumstances, given that Fred Jnr’s children had not seen much of their grandfather after their father died in 2015.

They had not visited him in hospital because they were not informed he was there, but that was because of how often he was admitted and also “because contact between the parties had stopped in any event”, he said.

The five sisters had made only “very occasional short visits” to see their “disappointed” grandfather, while he was on close terms with his son Terry and Mrs Wiltshire was his full-time carer.

‘Became disappointed’

“It is most likely that given the changed circumstances following Fred Jnr’s death and the limited contact with the claimants after then that Fred became disappointed with the claimants,” he said.

Clearing both Terry Ward and Mrs Wiltshire of influencing their father into effectively cutting his granddaughters out of the will, he said: “The evidence does not come close to persuading me that it is more likely than not that the 2018 will was procured by the undue influence of the defendants or either of them.”

The judge also rejected claims that Mr Ward did not have “capacity” to make the will in 2018 or that it was invalid for “want of knowledge and approval” of its effect.

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