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Will disputes: Children of abusive father unsuccessfully challenge his will

This is a sad case involving the children of wealthy businessman Alfred Stewart, who died in 2008.

His children, Garry, Calum, Linden and Leonie, claimed Mr Stewart was an abusive sexual predator.  In 2005 he made a will that left his £6.7 million estate to charity, completely excluding his four children.

The children raised an action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to set aside their father’s 2005 will (and later amendments to it) on the basis that he was paranoid and delusional when he made his will.
The court heard evidence that Mr Stewart was verbally and physically abusive to his children and his first wife, Lynne Buchan.  There was also evidence that he propositioned other women and sexually abused a child from about the age of four. Psychiatrists also told the court that Mr Stewart had a paranoid personality disorder.

The judge, Lord Brailsford, said, “He seems to have been sexually predatory, selfish and careless for the feelings and well-being of others.”  The judge also described Mr Stewart as behaving  “in a distant and remote way towards the children of his first marriage. He seems to have shown them less love and emotional support than one would expect and hope to see from a parent.”

However, Lord Brailsford went on to say that Mr Stewart’s behaviour is irrelevant to the question of whether he was mentally capable of making a will.  The judge noted that while behaving in this repugnant way, Mr Stewart became a successful, wealthy property developer.

The children needed to prove that their father’s will (and amendments) resulted from him having a mental disorder.  Lord Brailsford  said he was not satisfied the children had shown there were periods when their father’s paranoid personality disorder was of such delusional intensity as to deprive him of testamentary capacity.

The judge said: ” While he was – clearly a driven man and capable of ruthless and harsh behaviour at times, close examination of the evidence does not suggest that his behaviour was the result of delusional thoughts.”

“Mere antipathy towards his children, prejudice, intolerance or even caprice will not suffice,” said the judge.

By Karen Shakespeare, 18th May 2013

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