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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Irishwoman in court battle over sister's deathbed will

Brian Horne

Published 27/02/2014 | 02:30

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Elizabeth Smyth from Co Meath contesting millionaire sisters will in Scottish Court of Session. Picture:  Ciaran Donnelly
Elizabeth Smyth from Co Meath contesting millionaire sisters will in Scottish Court of Session. Picture: Ciaran Donnelly

AN IRISHWOMAN is locked in a bitter legal battle with her former brother-in-law over the will left by her millionaire sister.

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Newspaper proprietor Deirdre Romanes was fighting off constant pain when she drew up a disputed deathbed will, a court heard.

Mrs Romanes was founder and chief executive of the Celtic Media Group, parent company of the Meath Chronicle and other papers, until her death in 2010.

She died with an estate estimated at more than £4m (€4.87m), a court in Scotland heard.

A judge is being asked to rule on whether the will, which would indirectly benefit Mrs Romanes' former husband and business partner, should stand.

But Mrs Romanes' younger sister, Elizabeth Smyth, claims that businessman Iain Romanes was able to exert undue influence on his ex-wife at a time when she "lacked capacity".

Mrs Smyth of Kells, Co Meath, is conducting her own case at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. She says the will completely reduces her share compared to a will that was drawn up two years again.

The later will was signed days before 60-year-old Mrs Rom- anes lost her long battle with cancer in May 2010.

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It left the bulk of her fortune to a trust fund, an arrangement which would also benefit her former husband.

The marriage to Monaco-based Iain Romanes broke up in 2001 when he left her for another woman, and they divorced five years later.

Mrs Romanes left a note expressing her wish that the trustees would do all they could to support the financially ailing Dunfermline Press, a family business going back to 1859.

Mr Romanes was a director who held a block of shares.

On the second day of a two-week hearing, Judge Lord Glennie was told that Mrs Romanes timed her medication to leave her lucid for vital meetings about her estate.

Lifelong friend Sandra Maxwell said Mrs Romanes was taking opiate drugs in the last days of her life.

But she put up with the pain to remain lucid while waiting for a solicitor to arrive at her Heriot Row home in Edinburgh's New Town.

"The medication made her sleepy," said Mrs Maxwell. Not taking the drugs when she had business to conduct was a personal decision, she added.

Mrs Smyth asked if her sister might have been "easily imposed on" during discussions about her will.

"I believe that because she knew she was coming to the end of her life she may just have acquiesced because she wanted it dealt with," said Mrs Maxwell.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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