Court overturns will leaving estate to carer

A family have won back their inheritance after their wealthy mother left her entire estate to a man she may never have known.

Catherine Devas, who died in 2006, had changed her will in 2005, cutting out the family and leaving everything to the son of her privately hired carer.

Deputy High Court judge Sarah Asplin QC ruled that the final will was invalid because Mrs Devas, who had had several strokes, was suffering from dementia and would not have understood what the will said. The judge also ordered the carer's son, Marcus Mackay, to pay the costs of the case on an indemnity basis – the highest level allowed.

The judge heard Mrs Devas moved from the Cotswolds to Cambridge after her husband died so she could surround herself with academics who shared her love of books. But, it was alleged, she fell under the control of Zandra Mackay, who was hired to look after her but isolated her from her family.

Mrs Devas's three daughters now share the estate with her grandchildren, as outlined under a previous will.

The judge said she was told that, during the three years Mrs Mackay had looked after Mrs Devas, £405,000 went out of her bank account. By the time of her death, her capital wealth had been reduced to just £26,000.

Mrs Devas's family said they were not told when Mrs Devas became gravely ill shortly before her death and say they were prevented from seeing her during the last 48 hours of her life.