Children 'written out of rich lawyer's will'

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The Independent Online

The children of a wealthy lawyer were written out of his "suspicious" will in favour of his second wife a month before he died in a car crash, the High Court heard yesterday.

Richard Sherrington's three children from his first marriage claim they lost out following the alteration of his long-standing financial arrangements shortly before his death in a car crash.

Elspeth Talbot Rice, on behalf of the Sherringtons - Dahlia, 30, Donna, 27, and Ramon, 21 - told the court that the £10m will had not been properly executed and that it did not reflect his "true and unprompted testamentary intentions". The children instead shared a £58,000 insurance policy paid out on behalf of their late father.

They claim his will was "procured" by Yvonne Sherrington and then drafted by her daughter, who was not qualified to do so. Neither of the two witnesses knew what they were signing or why, it is claimed.

The second marriage was described as a "mistake ... [a] tense and difficult relationship" and it was up to the widow to "dispel the suspicion" over the change to his estate, Ms Talbot Price said.

Mr Sherrington, who was head of the London law firm he founded and who also owned the loan company Barex Brokers, died aged 56 in a crash with a lorry on the M25 in October 2001.

His first wife Gloria, with whom he remained on friendly terms after their divorce in May 1999, is expected to tell the court that her former husband did not intend to cut the children out of his estate. They retained a "strongly supportive" relationship and he remained proud and generous towards them, she will say. The will also left nothing to the children's grandmother whose nursing home fees were being partly paid by Mr Sherrington before he died.

In video evidence from Canada, Mr Sherrington's brother, John, said the dead man "had been reluctant to talk about his second wife".

"One of his sayings was 'anything for a quiet life'," said Mr Sherrington, who claimed his brother agreed to the change to avoid confrontation with his second wife. He always felt it was his duty to look after the children, of whom he was very fond."

Dahlia Sherrington, giving evidence, agreed there had been a time when her relationship with her father had become strained. But she said she "loved her father very deeply" and held him in "high esteem".

The family claim the will was drafted and signed within a 12-hour period "in circumstances of unnecessary but great haste". Ms Talbot Rice said one of the witnesses, Ayesha Butt, the wife of Mr Sherrington's personal assistant, would testify that Mr Sherrington's signature was not on the document she signed. The other witness was an office cleaner whose mother tongue was Gujarati and who spoke imperfect English, it is claimed

Ms Talbot Price told the judge, Mr Justice Lightman: "This is a case where the main beneficiary of the will has procured both the production of the will and its signature by the deceased. She also procured the attendance of the two purported witnesses to the will, neither of whom knew what they were signing or why."

The case continues.