Family in inheritance dispute over manor house

by Daniel Jones

A family is locked in a legal battle over the ownership of a £1.5 million manor house after a grandson claimed he should inherit the house under the principle of primogeniture. In a case highlighting the importance of making a will, Rupert St John Webster is claiming that the Jacobean house owned by his grandparents ought to pass to him.

The 39-year-old says his grandparents assured his father in 1970s that the family seat would be passed on through the generations. However, his two aunts and uncle say their parents planned to share the property among the siblings.

Mr St John Webster claims legal documents that benefitted his father were "changed without his knowledge". Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said: "The other side of the family changed some legal documents which benefited my father the majority of the estate and that was a problem for me. He wanted to keep the place going through the generations."

The dispute, which centres on The Priory manor house, Ash Priors, near Taunton in Somerset, highlights a growing problem with inheritance disputes.

Figures from the High Court show the number of wills being contested and intestacy cases have a hit a record high. The number cases reaching the High Court rose by 38 per cent in a year as more families challenge the inheritance left them by relatives.

There were 110 cases launched by children, spouses and cohabitees in 2009 - a significant jump from the 80 that made it to the High Court in 2008. In 2006, there were just ten of such cases.

Meanwhile, a report on wills and probate laws from the National Centre for Social Research has claimed that he current legislation is outdated. The authors of this study said that while the laws have done "a rather good job" over the years, they will only continue to do so "if they can be amended to take account of the more fluid, less formal ways in which people continue to build their family lives".

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Published on: December 2, 2011

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