Four charities are involved in a legal dispute with the son of a 95-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s over a £1.6m inheritance in a case that was heard in the High Court yesterday.
The estate was left to Marie Curie Cancer Care, the RNIB, Action on Hearing Loss and the Institute of Cancer Research in a will made in 1982 by Dorothy Whelen, who died three years ago, according to the Evening Standard newspaper. The will has been lost since it was drawn up.
But Alan Turner, the son of Hazel Turner, who could not attend the High Court hearing, claims that Whelen made a second will in 1999 in which she pledged to bequeath her home, Tiltyard Cottage near Hampton Court Palace, to his 95-year-old mother, who was her life-long friend.
Mrs Turner is reported to have said in a statement that Whelen’s work colleagues witnessed Whelen signing the 1999 will. But the two colleagues concerned reportedly had no memory of seeing Whelen, or of witnessing her will.
Richard Wilson, the charities’ barrister, told the court yesterday that both witnesses "believed on the basis of what they were told by Hazel Turner that they were witnessing her will, not that of Dorothy Whelen".
Wilson said the 1999 will was never executed in a valid way and that Whelen, who was probably already infirm by this time, would not have understood or approved of its contents. It was "prepared without professional involvement" and there were "grounds for suspicion", he said. "The involvement of Hazel Turner raises suspicions to an even higher level."
Simon Myerson QC, representing Turner, contended that it was "inherently implausible" that she had perpetrated a fraud against her closest friend. He said the 1999 will simply put Whelen’s new intention into effect.
Judge John Behrens will give his ruling at a later date. A spokeswoman for Action on Hearing Loss said this was expected later this week or next week.
Marie Curie, the RNIB and Action on Hearing Loss said they were unable to comment further at this time.