Warring siblings blow the family inheritance fighting over...who gets the family inheritance!Alamy


Three siblings battling over who gets money from their mother's will have spent so much money on legal fees they risk getting nothing at all.

Julia Hawes, Peter Burgess and Libby Burgess have been locked in the fight since their mother, Daphne, died in May 2009, leaving an estate worth £120,000.

But the quarrel has been so intense that even one of the judges presiding over the case warned them of the risks.

Lord Justice Patten said at the Court of Appeal: "There is going to be nothing left in this estate."

The family are in dispute because Daphne changed her will in the presence of her daughter Julia and a solicitor in January 2007, two years before she died.

Julia's brother Peter and his other sister, Libby Burgess, insist the will is invalid and are fighting Julia at the Court of Appeal.

Daphne, who died at the age of 80, changed her will shortly after moving from her home in Bradville, Milton Keynes, to a bungalow which was bought for her by her son, a managing director of a recruitment company.

The reason why she had excluded her son Peter from her will, according to the documents, was that she intended to reward him 'lifetime provisions' by making improvements to the bungalow.

Peter and Libby Burgess, challenging the will, gave evidence about their mother's deteriorating health, in particular memory loss and confusion.

An Oxford psychiatry professor also gave evidence, concluding it was likely Daphne was suffering from a 'moderate' disorder of the mind at the time.

Following a hearing at Central London County Court in January, the will excluding Peter was struck in favour of an earlier document. In the first will Daphne divided her assets equally between her three children and was favoured after a judge found that she 'loved all her children very much and in equal measure'.

Julia, who was also ordered to pay £18,000 back into her late mother's estate, is now appealing against the ruling.

Her lawyers argue there is no evidence to justify the judge's conclusion that Daphne lacked the mental capacity to make a valid will and approve its contents.

Reserving judgment on Julia's appeal, Lord Justice Mummery said it was 'of importance' because of the rights of older people to have their wishes honoured.

He added: "When a person, towards the end of their life, makes a will, they ought to have their wishes respected unless it is very clear that it wasn't what they wanted."