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Four children battle over £8m inheritance

The separation of the inheritance is expected to be the first hurdle in a long line of battles

9 March 2016

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The late Sir Michael Butler's four children have become locked in a legal battle over the inheritance of a porcelain collection worth over £8m.

Sir Michael left 500 pieces of his 800-piece collection to his children in his will - the dispute centres on whether each party should be able to take an equal share of 125 pieces, or if the collection should be kept together and displayed at a public museum.

Unfortunately a letter of wishes was not left alongside the will, so the four parties have been left to dispute among themselves as to what their father would have wanted.

'Where no agreement can be reached, the decision making often ends with the court and is usually to the detriment of most of the parties,' commented Paula James, a partner and a contentious wills specialist at Thomas Eggar.

If the court does decide to separate the collection and give the parties an equal share, there is likely to be a further debate over valuations and who should inherit which specific piece.

James added: 'Where a will leaves a series of gifts to named beneficiaries there may be insufficient other unallocated assets to pay the debts administration costs and inheritance tax.

'All the gifts abate or reduce proportionately but there are invariably problems with valuations and the overarching difficulty that the deceased's wishes are not being complied with.'

Sir Michael Butler was an aide to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He is largely credited with putting into place the strategy to reduce the UK's contribution to the European Community budget.

The case is currently being heard at the High Court.


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Family Wills, Trusts & Probate