Cleaner Mops Up Bulk Of Employer’s Estate Following High Court Ruling

The High Court has ruled in favour of a cleaner who is set to inherit more than £400,000 of her deceased employer’s estate.

Leonora De Costa had worked for Harold Tickner, ex Savoy Head Waiter, lettings manager and bank worker, for over ten years before her employer died of Cancer in June, 2015.

Following the death of his wife in 2012, Harold Tickner remained a lonely figure, with only a daughter and nephew set to inherit his estate.

Mrs De Costa acted as a carer for her employee in the absence of his wife, often taking Mr Tickner to expensive restaurants so that he could experience his only remaining pleasurable past time.

Harold Tickner, who worked as head waiter at the Savoy Hotel after WWII, found fine dining to be his only pleasure. Mrs De Costa would often accompany Mr Tickner as he frequented restaurants up to three times per week.

The Judge heard that Mrs De Costa would clean and cook for her employer and was a consistent and reliable source of company to him.

Following an argument with his nephew, Dennis Germain, in 2013, Mrs De Costa became one of his only companions. As Mrs De Costa became an invaluable part of his life and support network, Tickner made a Will in 2014 leaving a £25,000 gift to both his nephew and daughter, a £50,000 gift to friend Kulvinder Nahal and the rest to Mrs De Costa who had worked and looked after him every day.

However, as Mr Tickner was nearing death, he made amends with his nephew Mr Germain who became a prevalent figure in Mr Tickner’s final days.

A matter of days before Mr Tickner died, two additional documents were executed, disinheriting Mrs De Costa, leaving the entire home to Mr Germain and the remaining assets, amounting to around £15,000 to his daughter.

The final Will was challenged by Mrs De Costa who claimed that her deceased employer lacked the capacity to understand the changes he was making to his final express wishes towards the end of his life as the illness intensified.

The court heard that the 2014 Will was made by Mr Tickner’s usual solicitor and that the contents were therefore known to him.

Following expert testimony on Mr Tickner’s condition towards the end of his life, it was clear that he would not have had the testamentary capacity needed to clearly make the second Will in 2015.

Although the judge has upheld the validity of the 2014 Will, Mrs De Costa will now need to contest the gift of the house made to Mr Germain before she is able to claim her inheritance from the 2014 Will. That case is being set for a later date.

The Presiding Judge concluded:

“The 2014 will was prepared by his usual solicitors, read to him and explained to him by them.

“In my judgment, it is clear that he did know and approve its contents.

“It seems to me that, on the expert evidence, I would have to conclude that Mr Tickner was incapable of making a will on June 13th, 2015.

“I would therefore hold that the 2015 will is invalid on the grounds of lack of capacity. I will pronounce against the 2015 will and in favour of the 2014 Will.”

How common are cases like this? Do you think this judgement is fair and reasonable? 

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