Sisters overturn father's will to inherit stud farm

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Grace and Emma Adam had expected to inherit their father's business when he died aged 70 after a long battle against multiple sclerosis which had left him paralysed and unable to speak.

However, in the last months of his life Neil Adam, a vet turned racehorse trainer, changed his will and bequeathed almost his entire estate to his stud manager, Robin Sharp, and head groom, Malcolm Bryson.

Despite the fact that earlier versions of the will had left the property to his daughters, the stud workers claimed that Mr Adam's "greatest desire" in his last years was that his stud should continue as a business.

Although paralysed and unable to speak by the time he made his last will in 2001, his instructions were given by responses to questions put by his solicitor and the will was signed by another solicitor.

But a deputy High Court judge, Nicholas Strauss, declared that will invalid yesterday and that an earlier draft which left everything to the sisters should stand.

Under a 1997 will, Grace, 42, and Emma, 37, were the sole beneficiaries - but they were disinherited in 2001 when their father left the Collin Stud in Newmarket, Suffolk, to the two men who had been working for him for most of their lives.

The deputy judge said he realised his ruling would be "very hard" on the stud workers because "there is every likelihood that the decision to benefit them resulted from rational thought, in which Mr Adam recognised his debt of gratitude to them".

"Nevertheless, I cannot conclude the will was rationally made, or that his natural feelings for his daughters, or his sense of right, were unaffected by disorder of the mind," he said.

Mr Adam began his career as a vet and became a racehorse trainer in the early 1970s. He achieved his greatest success with Gentilhombre, which won the Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp in two successive years and the July Cup at Newmarket.

Mr Sharp, 44, and Mr Bryson, 39, were said to have had great respect and affection for Mr Adam to whom they were completely loyal. Mr Sharp's management of the stud's financial affairs especially had been a great success to Mr Adam, cutting the debts from £600,000 to £360,000 by the time of his death.

"I have been struck by the great affection everyone had for Mr Adam and the extremely kind way in which everybody treated him," said the deputy judge, who granted the two men permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

"If that could result in some resolution of the issues between the parties it might be a fitting tribute to him," he said.

After the case Grace Adam, an artist and lecturer, said she was "relieved" and was looking forward to telling her sister, a vet, about the result. However she admitted she was disappointed that it appeared the case might not yet be over.