Judge overturns stud farm will
By Liz HearnshawTWO workers who dedicated their lives to building up their employer's stud farm business have vowed to fight a decision to deprive them of what they felt was their rightful inheritance.
By Liz Hearnshaw
TWO workers who dedicated their lives to building up their employer's stud farm business have vowed to fight a decision to deprive them of what they felt was their rightful inheritance.
Robin Sharp and Malcolm Bryson said they were both “very disappointed” with a High Court ruling declaring the will left by Neil Adam, bequeathing the Collin Stud in Newmarket to his former employees, was invalid.
The case was brought after 70-year-old Mr Adam, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, left almost his entire 250-acre estate to stud manager Mr Sharp and head groom Mr Bryson.
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The will was contested by sisters Grace and Emma Adam, who said their father had lacked the ability to draft the document after his health deteriorated.
But Deputy High Court judge Nicholas Strauss ruled yesterday in favour of the women, saying an earlier will - which left everything to them - should stand.
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Mr Sharp, 44, and Mr Bryson, 39, who had worked for Mr Adam all their lives, issued a statement last night.
It said: “We are both very disappointed by today's decision of the High Court. However, we have been given permission to appeal and intend to pursue that, subject to the advice of our lawyers.
“Pending our appeal, the status quo remains and on legal advice we are not able to comment further at the moment.”
Grace, 42, and Emma, 37, were the sole beneficiaries under a 1997 will, but were disinherited in 2001.
The deputy judge said he realised his ruling would be “very hard” on the stud workers because there was “every likelihood that the decision to benefit them resulted from rational thought, in which Mr Adam recognised his considerable debt of gratitude to them”.
He added: “Nevertheless, I cannot conclude that the will as a whole was rationally made, or that Mr Adam's natural feelings for his daughters, or his sense of right, were unaffected by disorder of the mind.”
Granting the men leave to appeal, the judge said: “I have been struck throughout the case by the great affection everyone had for Mr Adam and the extremely kind way in which everybody treated him.
“If that could result in some resolution of the issues between the parties it might be a fitting tribute to him.”
Grace Adam said after the hearing that she was “relieved”, but added she was disappointed the case may not yet be over.
Mark Jones, who represented the women, had told the deputy judge that Mr Adam's sudden decision to cut out his daughters was “wholly at variance” with his previous intentions.
But Gilead Cooper, for the stud workers, said Mr Adam's “greatest desire” in the last years of his life was that his stud should continue as a business.
“If he was seeking to achieve the continued functioning of the stud, then giving everything to them (his clients) does make perfect sense,” he said.
The deputy judge said Mr Adam, who began his career as a vet and became a racehorse trainer in the early 1970s, was paralysed and unable to speak by the time he made his last will.
His instructions were given by responses to questions put by his solicitor and the will was signed by another solicitor who saw the will being drawn up.
The deputy judge said of Mr Adam: “By all accounts he was a forceful and forthright character, and remained so despite his disability.
“I have no doubt, having heard the sisters' evidence, that they loved their father and were greatly distressed by his decline.”
The deputy judge added he had “no doubt” Mr Sharp and Mr Bryson had “great respect and affection for Mr Adam and were completely loyal to him”.
But he said there seemed to be no rational explanation for Mr Adam's decision to leave nothing to his daughters.
“In my judgment it is likely that there was a temporary poisoning of his natural affection for his daughters, or a perversion of his sense of right, the nature of which nobody can satisfactorily explain,” said the judge.