Bernard Matthews’ children contest his wishes over foreign property
Bernard Matthews who died in 2010 amassed an estate of some £50m thanks to his turkey empire. He died leaving his wife, with whom he had not lived for 35 years, 3 adopted children from that relationship and one natural child, George, from another relationship.
Mr Matthews wished to leave his £12m French villa to his mistress whom he had lived with for about 20 years. Under French law however his children were entitled to over 50% of the French villa on his death. He hoped nevertheless that his children would not exercise their rights, and left a letter to that effect. While George respected his wishes, the adopted children did not, and decided to contest the will to uphold French law. The result was that his French mistress inherited less than half of the villa.
The children also disputed the inheritance tax payable on the foreign property, arguing that it should be paid from Mr Matthews’ properties outside France but the court held that the adopted children have no right under the English will to have their tax liability discharged, or to be reimbursed if they have paid it.