Farm Ireland
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Tuesday 22 May 2018

Dispute over amateur jockey Bunny Cox's estate settled

 Stock photo
 Stock photo

Tim Healy

A High Court dispute over the valuable Co Louth estate of the late and legendary amateur jockey Bunny Cox has been resolved.

The action was taken by a court-appointed administrator of the estate against Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, known as "Bunny".  

The case began last week and was settled on Wednesday on terms which include the sale of some of the lands attached to the family farm at Lisnawilly, Dundalk.

Bunny Cox died in January 2006, aged 81.

Mr Cox had appointed three executors of his estate, one of whom was his wife.  

Anthony Toomey was later appointed by the court as administrator following the death of Chetwin Cox, one of the other two executors, and illness of the other, James Smith.

The administrator sought orders from the court setting aside a deed of transfer of March 18, 2005, made between the late Mr Cox and his wife.

Under that, Mr Cox transferred the house and lands at Lisnawilly from his sole name into the joint names of himself and his wife. The effect of the transfer, if upheld, would be the house and property passed to Mrs Cox on her husband's death.

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It was claimed Mr Cox's consent and/or signature to the deed of transfer was procured by duress and/or undue influence. It was alternatively claimed the transfer amounted to an unconscionable bargain.

It was claimed, after the transfer, Mr Cox made a last will on June 11, 2005, and he made further codicil or amendment of August 17, 2005.

Under that will, it is claimed Mr Cox left 50pc of his house and lands to his wife; 10pc to each of his three daughters Jennifer, Michelle and Suzanne; and 20pc on trust for his son Richard for his life, to be split equally after Richard's death between the three daughters.

It was alleged, when Mr Cox signed the March transfer document, he had been suffering from ill health for some time, having been diagnosed with lung cancer about November 2004. Other claims include he did not have the benefit of independent legal advice concerning the transfer document which, it was claimed, was witnessed by the same solicitor for Mr Cox and his wife.

Mrs Cox denied the claims.

She said the March 2005 transfer was in consideration of the natural love and affection her husband bore for her and is valid, effective and enforceable. She said he had independent legal advice and the necessary mental capacity.

She also claimed, without seeking to impugn the validity of the June 2005 will and August 2005 codicil, but for purposes of full defence of the case, the execution of the will was procured by duress and undue influence on her late husband by their daughters Jennifer and Michelle, that her husband was not acting voluntarily at the time and had "succumbed to the pressure for peace sake". The two daughters denied that claim.

She claimed that in earlier wills, the couple left their entire estate to each other if one died before the other.

On Wednesday, following talks, by Louis McEntaggart SC, for the administrator, told Mr Justice Denis McDonald the parties had reached agreement and the terms of settlement could be filed in court.

A key part of the agreement relates to the sale of part of the lands which will pay off outstanding debts on the property. The court heard it is hoped to achieve more than €1.7m from the sale.

Richard, who has been successfully farming part of the estate, would continue to do so and all parties are to make their best endeavours to co-operate with that, under the agreement.

Mr Justice McDonald appealed to the parties to restore good relations because "life is very short and family relations are the most important relations we have".

He  struck out the proceedings but gave liberty to apply to the court again for the purpose of implementing the settlement agreement.  He made no order as to costs and vacated previous costs orders.


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