Kent

Sisters lose High Court fight over father's £4m will

Three sisters who challenged their father's will after he left his £4m estate to their stepmother have lost their battle at the High Court.

George Wharton, from Kent, married his long-term partner Maureen, 63, in 2008, days before he died of cancer, aged 78.

Victoria Wharton, 55, Gina Fagan, 51, and Amanda Wharton, 42, claimed she had had undue influence over the will.

But Mr Justice Norris said the leisure centre entrepreneur had seen the marriage as a solution to a tax issue.

'Cry of anguish'

The High Court judge said: "It was always Mr Wharton's intention to marry on his deathbed.

"As he approached death he announced his intention to marry.

"He quite plainly understood marriage as a solution to the inheritance tax problem which overhung the business he and Maureen had created and for which he had made no provision."

On 23 September 2008, Mr Wharton, whose wealth came from his company White Horse Leisure Centres, was discharged from hospital with terminal cancer knowing he had a short time to live, the court heard.

Mr Wharton made a will that evening and immediately afterwards married Maureen, his partner of 32 years, at his home in Minster, Sheerness. He died three days later.

He left his entire estate to his wife, making no provision for his daughters or his grandchildren.

The court heard that the daughters' distress could be gauged from the tenor of their solicitor's letter, which the judge described as "a cry of anguish dressed up in legal language".

But he said he was satisfied Mr Wharton "knew and approved, understood and sanctioned" the terms of the will.

"I do not regard it as suspicious that a 'husband' should leave to his 'wife' of 32 years the entirety of his estate, even if he is a rich man."

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