A WEALTHY ex-BA pilot has today won £200,000 from his poorer sisters after a £1.5m inheritance row.
Retired air captain Chris Burgess, 65, had only been left £300,000 from his parents after being told his sisters would get £600,00 each as they needed it more.
But after his dad, lawyer and judge Jim Burgess, died in 2012, his mum Freda Burgess asked him to shred the will and draw up a new one to split the cash equally.
The move sparked a bitter court battle between Mr Burgess and his sisters, Jennifer Penny, 69, and Catherine Kennard, 55.
A High Court judge today ruled all three siblings should get £500,000 from their parents’ estate.
Judge Catherine Newman QC said it was mum Freda Burgess’ desire to make sure her children benefited equally.
She told the court: “It was her own wish to leave her property equally to her three children.”
A hearing in February had heard that dad Jim Burgess believed son Chris was better off than his daughters and therefore split the will 40-40-20.
Chris had forged a career as a pilot, during which he met his Brazilian wife, Cleide, when she worked as BA cabin crew.
Dad Jim informed his son about the change in 2012 at a football match, telling him that “Cathy and Jennie were not as secure financially” as him.
But when Jim died aged 88 in 2012, Freda then said she wanted to change the will to share their cash equally.
Having suffered a bad fall in January 2013, she wanted it done quickly. Chris prepared a new will and it was signed soon afterwards.
The judge said Chris was a “loving son” who had cared for Freda in her last days, with her living and dying at his home.
Cleide was also “loving and devoted to Freda,” said the judge.
She added: “She willingly supported Chris spending a lot of time with his widowed mother, even at the expense of their own family life.”
The family was torn apart after the death of “generous and amazing” Freda, aged 90, in February 2016, as arguments raged over the wills.
The case reached court as Mrs Penny and Mrs Kennard disputed the validity of the 2013 will.
They said they were happy with being treated “equally”, provided it was “done properly”.
Challenging the 2013 will, they said it had not been properly witnessed and that the 2012 will should stand as Freda’s final will.
That would see them inherit about £600,000 each, with Chris getting £300,000 – instead of equal £500,000 shares.
Ruling on the case, Judge Newman accepted that the 2013 will was not valid, since one of its witnesses did not see Freda sign it.
However, she said its contents were exactly what Freda had wanted and that she had genuinely “revoked” the unequal 2012 will by having it shredded.
She said: “Freda did feel unhappy about the unequal division of the estate, and did decide to change the provisions of her will back to equality.
“After her fall, this became something she wanted dealt with quickly.
“Although physically frail at this time and temporarily less robust psychologically than before her fall, she was well able to make up her own mind about what she wanted.”
MOST READ IN NEWS
She added: “My assessment of Chris is that he would not draw up a will which was not in accordance with his mother’s expressed wishes and that he did not do so.”
The judge’s decision means Freda Burgess died intestate, with her estate to be divided equally between all three children.
Each will receive about £500,000, with who pays the costs of the case to be decided at a later date.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.