Descendants whose lack of visits 'hurt' a retired soldier are losing a legal battle over his will

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

The “strong-willed” Frederick Ward Sr. died in 2020, roughly dividing his estate between his two sons, Terry Ward and Susan Wiltshire.

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

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

After learning they were disinherited, the five sisters — Sisters Carol Going, Angela St. Marseille, Amanda Higginbotham, Christine Ward, and Janet Pitt — filed a lawsuit, claiming they should receive their late father's one-third share of their grandfather's money.

They said their uncle and aunt had “unduly influenced” their relative to change his will at their expense.

“Perfectly rational”

However, their case was dismissed by High Court judge, Mr James Brightwell, who said it was “entirely rational” for a “frustrated” grandfather to cut off his grandchildren due to their “very limited contact” with him in his final years.

He said the “evidence does not come close to convincing me” that Terry Ward “hated” his father or that Mrs Wiltshire “controlled” him in a way that cast doubt on his will.

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

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He added that they did not visit him in the hospital because they were not informed of his presence there, but that was because of the number of times he was hospitalized and also “because communication between the two parties had stopped anyway.”

The five sisters only made short occasional visits to see their “disappointing” grandfather, while he had a close relationship with his son Terry and Mrs. Wiltshire was looking after him full-time.

“I became disappointed”

“It is likely that given the changed circumstances following Fred Jr.’s death and the limited contact with the Claimants thereafter, Fred became disillusioned with the Claimants,” he said.

“The evidence does not come close to convincing me that it is likely that the 2018 will was obtained gratuitously,” he said after both Terry Ward and Ms Wiltshire were acquitted of influencing their father to exclude his granddaughters from the will. The influence of either or one of the defendants.”

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

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