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Monday 23 July 2018

Farmer wins 120 acres in will after he learned boss was his dad

William Naylor of Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary pictured at the Four Courts for a Court of Appeal Judgement. Photo: Collins Courts
William Naylor of Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary pictured at the Four Courts for a Court of Appeal Judgement. Photo: Collins Courts

Tim Healy

A FARMER is entitled to 120 acres of land belonging to a man who turned out to be his biological father.

But the lengthy battle in the Court of Appeal set aside a previous finding that William Naylor should receive a bequest of €150,000 left to him by the late Michael Hoare, who died in 2007 aged 82.

Mr Naylor sued his sister Jean Maher in proceedings that ran for 21 days before the High Court in 2012.

Ms Maher was the executrix of Michael Hoare’s estate, but Mr Naylor was seeking to have a will executed by Mr Hoare set aside. In that will Mr Hoare left Ms Maher – who had cared for him in his later years – the farm at Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, while Mr Naylor was to get €150,000.

That 2006 will replaced one made a year earlier, in which Mr Hoare had left the land to Mr Naylor.

Mr Naylor, who is aged in his early 60s, claimed he was promised the farm by Mr Hoare.

Jean Maher, of Towsend Street, Birr, Co Offaly, pictured leaving court on Wednesday after the Court of Appeal decision Photo: Collins Courts
Jean Maher, of Towsend Street, Birr, Co Offaly, pictured leaving court on Wednesday after the Court of Appeal decision Photo: Collins Courts

He had lived and worked on it for more than 30 years, but only discovered Mr Hoare was his biological father after his death.

The court heard Michael Hoare married Mr Naylor’s mother in the 1980s. He had always believed another man, his mother’s first husband, was his father.

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Ms Maher, of The Crescent, Townsend Street, Birr, Co Offaly, opposed the claim.

In a 2012 High Court judgment, Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe ruled Mr Naylor had established a legal claim and was entitled to the lands at Derrylahan as well as the money left to him in the 2006 will.

The judge said for many years Mr Naylor was entitled to the land as he worked the farm for “minimal remuneration”, and Mr Hoare had promised him on many occasions he would leave him the property. 

The judge also accepted the evidence of other witnesses that Mr Hoare had promised Mr Naylor the land.

But the judge found Mr Naylor had failed to establish his claim that the 2006 will was procured by duress and undue influence by Ms Maher, and dismissed his claims. 

Ms Maher appealed the sum of those findings, on grounds that included the trial judge had erred in deciding her brother’s claim should have been satisfied by the transfer of lands to him, and that he was entitled to his legal costs.

She argued the High Court should have ordered Mr Naylor be compensated with a sum of money sufficient to repay him the amount he lost when he moved back from Dublin to help his father on the farm. Evidence was given that €163,000 represented his loss. 

Mr Naylor opposed the appeal and argued the High Court decision should remain.

In its judgment yesterday, the three-judge Court of Appeal unanimously held that Mr Naylor was entitled to the land based on the promises made to him.

Giving the court’s decision, Mr Justice Michael Peart said it disagreed with the High Court’s finding that he was also entitled to the €150,000 bequeathed to him in the 2006 will.

The court found the €150,000 was intended as substitution for the lands. The earlier will did not contain such a bequeath.

Mr Naylor was entitled to 75pc of his legal costs and not all as the High Court had ruled.

Mr Naylor has an address at Lelagh, Rathcabbin, Derrylahan, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, but is originally from Birr in Co Offaly.


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