Judge rules man entitled to biological father’s farm

The High Court has ruled that a 57-year-old man is entitled to a 120-acre farm of a man who turned out to be his biological father.

William Naylor, otherwise Hoare, claimed he was promised the farm, which he had lived and worked on for more than 30 years, belonging to the late Michael Hoare.

However in a will executed by Mr Hoare some months before his death in 2007 aged 82, he bequeathed the farm to his daughter and Mr Naylor’s sister, Jean Maher, who had cared for the late Mr Hoare in his latter years.

Mr Naylor argued that he had been promised the farm by Mr Hoare, who he only discovered was his biological father after his death, and sued Ms Maher, aged 58, of The Crescent, Townsend St, Birr, Co Offaly.

In a lengthy judgment, Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe ruled that Mr Naylor, of Lelagh, Rathcabbin, Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, but originally from Birr in Co Offaly, had established a legal claim and was entitled to the lands at Derrylahan.

The judge said Mr Naylor was entitled to the land as he worked the farm for many years for “minimal remuneration”, and Mr Hoare had promised him on many occasions he would leave him the property.

The judge however said that Mr Naylor had “failed to establish” that the will of Mr Hoare, who allegedly suffered from a number of physical and mental health conditions prior to his death, was procured by duress and undue influence by Ms Maher.

Speaking through his solicitor, Cahir O’Higgins, Mr Naylor declined to make any comment on the ruling. However, Mr O’Higgins said that the case, which lasted several weeks in the High Court had been “a difficult matter for all involved”.

In his action Mr Naylor sought orders from the court including that the agreement between him and Mr Hoare over the land be specifically performed and one setting aside Mr Hoare’s will of Nov 2006.

In that will Mr Naylor was left €150,000 while the defendant, who was named executrix of the will, was left the 120-acre farm. A previous will executed by Michael Hoare in 2005 left the lands to Mr Naylor.

Mr Naylor’s lawyers wanted the 2006 will deemed null and void claiming it was not executed in accordance with provisions of the Succession Act.

Ms Maher denied all the claims against her. In her counterclaim she sought an order declaring Michael Hoare’s 2006 will as the true and original last will and testament of the deceased.

In his judgment, Mr Justice O’Keeffe said Mr Naylor, who was a truthful witness, worked the farm “at the expressed wishes” of Mr Hoare. The judge said he was satisfied Mr Hoare promised Mr Naylor on a number of occasions that he would leave him the farm. The judge also accepted the evidence of other witnesses that Mr Hoare had promised Mr Naylor the land.

That commitment by Mr Hoare was “lifelong”, the judge said. Mr Naylor, who received little money for his work, had worked the lands to his detriment, he said.

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