Court asked to decide whether part of €3.4m will - including farm where Derrynaflan Chalice was found - was revoked
THE High Court has been asked to decide whether a builder revoked previous wills relating to part of his €3.4million estate - which includes the farm where the Derrynaflan Chalice was found.
William (Billy) Courtney died in October 2013, age 84, leaving assets in Britain and Ireland which he had amassed after he emigrated in 1953 from Kerry to England where he enjoyed a successful career in the building industry.
He married Patricia Courtney and he died without children but had a large number of nieces and nephews with whom he had a close relationship.
Among his assets were €1.6m in the UK, the bulk of which was his family home at Narcissus Road, London.
His Irish assets, worth around €1.8m, were made up mainly of property in Dublin, Kerry and Tipperary, including the Derrynaflan farm where the chalice was found in 1980.
He made a will in a solicitor's office in England in 2006 which was limited to his UK assets, the bulk of which he left to his wife.
He made another will in 2007 with his solicitors in Killarney, Co Kerry, dealing with his Irish assets, which were to be put into a trust for his wife and his sister Mary and on their deaths the trust would come into being for the benefit of certain nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand nephews. His Kerry solicitor Michael Larkin was the executor.
Over the next four years, he made four amendments (codicils) to the Irish will relating to how the Irish assets were to be distributed.
In 2013, while in hospital shortly before his death, he asked his wife to obtain a pre-printed "home-made" will, Vinog Faughnan SC, for the executor of the Irish will, told the court.
In this, he again stated the bulk of his UK assets should go to his wife.
However, counsel said, because this pre-printed will contained a standard revocation of all previous wills, the court was now being asked to decide if that was the actual intention of the deceased. Its effect would be that he would have died intestate with regard to the Irish property, counsel said.
There was no dispute between the relatives that it was always his intention the Irish assets should go to his Irish relatives and the English ones to his wife. The court heard his widow agreed this was so.
The court was now being asked to decide whether it was his actual intention to revoke the previous wills as the presumption in law is that this is so once such a clause is included, Mr Faughnan said.
Declan Whittle BL, for nephew Michael Courtney, argued the court had to look at the surrounding circumstances to divulge the true intention of the testator. It would be risible or preposterous that he would, after four years of dealing with his Irish estate (through codicils), want that to go into intestacy, counsel said.
Ross Gorman BL, for Mrs Courtney, said she had sworn an affidavit this month stating she was of the opinion her husband did not intend to revoke and that his Irish assets should effectively remain here in Ireland with his relatives.
Ms Justice Marie Baker reserved her decision.