Children win fight against stepmother for £10m will

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Three children who accused their stepmother of depriving them of their inheri- tance won a court battle yesterday to have their father's £10m will declared invalid.

Three children who accused their stepmother of depriving them of their inheri- tance won a court battle yesterday to have their father's £10m will declared invalid.

The judge ruled that Yvonne Sherrington, 55, had failed to prove that her husband, Richard, 56, a solicitor, had agreed to leave her everything.

Describing Mrs Sherrington as an "unsatisfactory and unreliable witness", Mr Justice Lightman said that towards the end of their stormy relationship even her husband had come to regard her as "Hitler and a witch".

The judge said: "She is a person who is quite unable to come to terms with unpalatable facts and will say anything that comes to mind, irrespective of its truth, to contradict them."

He went on: "She showed herself to be aggressive, intolerant, ready without any basis to charge anyone who gave evidence adverse to her cause with deliberately lying."

Mr Sherrington's children, Daliah, 30, Donna, 27, and Ramon, 21, had argued that their father, who was divorced from their mother, Gloria, was pressed into making a will that was not properly witnessed.

Mr Justice Lightman revoked the will and said Mr Sherrington had told friends that his second marriage had been "the biggest mistake of my life" and that Yvonne was only interested in him for his money.

The ruling means that Mr Sherrington, who was killed in a car accident on the M25 in October 2001, died intestate. As surviving spouse, Mrs Sherrington is expected to receive £125,000 from the settlement.

She is also entitled to a life interest in half of the estate - which could be close to £10m - with the children taking the other half. On her death, her half goes to the children.

Mrs Sherrington, who was not in court, was ordered to pay 50 per cent of the claimants' costs as well as her own costs, giving her a total bill unofficially estimated at £150,000.

Outside court Ramon said: "We are delighted that Mr Justice Lightman has found in our favour." Flanked by his sisters, he added: "Our main concern in bringing this probate action was that we knew our father's will did not reflect his true intentions and his overwhelming love for us."

The court had heard that the children had become suspicious when they discovered that the will had been drawn up by Mrs Sherrington's daughter from a previous marriage, Nathalie Walker, who had no legal qualifications. Suspicions were further aroused when it emerged the document was witnessed by an office cleaner who spoke little English.

Mrs Sherrington claimed that her husband's children were not close to their father because they blamed him for the break-up of his first marriage to their mother.

She said Mr Sherrington, who ran a firm of solicitors in north London and a mortgage loan company, had made ample provision for the children and his first wife with life insurance policies and had asked for wills to be drawn up that left their possessions to each other.

The judge concluded: "I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the deceased was ever informed of the contents of the will or ever read it."

He refused Mrs Sherrington permission to take her case to the Court of Appeal.