Tuesday 26 September 2017

Sister to challenge tycoon's €4.5m will

Liam Collins

Liam Collins

A £4M (€4.5m) will signed by Irish and Scottish media magnate Deirdre Romanes days before she died of cancer will be challenged in the Scottish courts by her Meath-based sister Elizabeth Smyth.

The document signed by Mrs Romanes -- whose company Celtic Media owns the Meath Chronicle, the Westmeath Examiner and Anglo Celt newspapers in Ireland -- changed the terms of an earlier will and now benefits the Dunfermline Press, a company controlled by her ex-husband Iain Romanes, to the tune of £3m (€3.3m).

Mrs Smyth, a mother of four sons, claims Mr Romanes persuaded his former wife to change the terms of her will when she was "weak and facile" and in the last stages of a terminal cancer.

The comments were made in legal documents when Mrs Smyth successfully stopped the sale of two prestigious Edinburgh properties that were previously willed to her in a 2008 document.

Mrs Romanes was also chief executive of the Dunfermline Press in Scotland.

Her final will values her estate at £4.21m (€4.76m) and included her opulent home in Edinburgh's Heriot Row and another property in the nearby Jamaica Street -- both of which had originally been willed to her sister in a 2008 will and were valued at £2.2m (€2.4m).

Mrs Smyth argues that she may not receive anything from her sister's estate.

Mrs Romanes was divorced from the Monaco-based Mr Romanes at the time of her death. The couple had no children. Mr Romanes has since remarried.

She signed the final will, a complicated eight-page document, on May 9, 2010, eight days before she died on May 17, 2010.

The final will no longer leaves the Edinburgh houses to her sister. However, Mrs Smyth stands to inherit £1m (€1.1m) from her dead sibling.

But Mrs Smyth argues she is unlikely to receive anywhere near that amount if her sister's property and other assets are disposed of.

"The respondent (Mrs Smyth) alleges that at the time the deceased executed the 2010 deeds she lacked the necessary capacity," said Scottish judges.

"The respondent is apprehensive that, if the estate is distributed in terms of the 2010 will or the 2010 codicil, there will be no funds available to satisfy the legacy of her after the reclaimers have paid the deceased debts, inheritance tax and preferential legacy.

"In any event the legacy of £1m is significantly less than the bequest to the respondents in the 2008 will," said the judges.

An attempt by the executors of the will to have the Scottish properties sold before Mrs Smyth's legal challenge is heard has been refused by the Scottish judges. The will dispute is now expected to go to a full hearing.

Mrs Romanes estate was valued at £4,176,782 (€4,725,223). As well as the two houses in Edinburgh, the estate also included over £1m in cash, a yacht based in the Channel Islands and antiques and paint- ings valued at almost £190,000.

Mrs Romanes' 51,000 shares in the Celtic Media Group, based at Market Square, Navan, Co Meath, were valued at just £1.

Mrs Romanes, who was originally from Wicklow had splashed out over €30m buying Irish provincial newspapers.

However, since the recession the value of the Irish business has plummeted and the Celtic Media Group had debts of €41m in 2009.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News