The family of a deceased multi-millionaire have been told he would not be happy to see them fighting in court over his €300m estate.
The family of the late Donegal Person of the Year, Hugh Green, are back in court in New Zealand as part of a long-running courtroom battle between his three adult children over his will.
Mr Green left his native Donegal in 1951, aged 19 and penniless, but went on to build a huge fortune through farming and land deals.
He died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 80, leaving an estate of NZ$400m.
Now, three Court of Appeal judges in New Zealand have been asked to overturn a finding that Mr Green’s last will, from April 2012, should be set aside because it was made under the undue influence of his eldest son, John.
If the High Court judgment to set aside the will is allowed to stand, John Green’s sister Maryanne, who worked alongside her father for many years in the family business, would be the only family member still a trustee.
Lawyer Mark O’Brientold the court “If Hugh was looking down on us, he would not be happy”.
The president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Stephen Kos, said it would be a great shame if there was no dialogue.
Lawyer Harry Waalkens, said there was no quibbling with the High Court judge’s finding that Mr Green was vulnerable when he made his last will, but the question was the degree to which he was susceptible to influence.
His strength of character was a common theme of the evidence, and it beggared belief that he would have allowed anything that did not accord with his own wishes, Mr Waalkens said.
Mr O’Brien said the dispute was not about the money for anyone involved.
The appeal was brought because the wider family wanted Mr Green’s wishes respected. He wanted a “fair bit” to go to charity, and for the family to keep the businesses. But he did not want Maryanne to be a trustee if she would not work with siblings John and Frances, Mr O’Brien said.
Judge Kos said the trusts could be headed for a period of court supervision before being returned to family control when things had settled down. The hearing is expected to take several days.
Mr Green, born in Raphoe but raised in Letterkenny where he often returned to in his later years to spend the summer, was awarded the joint Donegal Person of the year in 2012. He regularly donated to local charities, including €200,000 to Letterkenny General Hospital for a training academy.
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