Former magistrate slammed over will squabble

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A FORMER city magistrate has been slammed by the highest court in the land after a shameful squabble with her brother and sister about their dead mother’s money.

Julia Hawes’ incredible battle for cash ended this week when a Court of Appeal ruled the estate of 80-year-old Daphne Burgess should be split equally between the three siblings.

But ironically the mammoth row means there is hardly any money left to split. For the modest £200,000 will has been dwarfed by lawyers’ bills notched up during the four-year courtroom fight.

Lamenting the appalling waste, Lord Justice Mummery said: “The cost of contesting Mrs Burgess’ will is a calamity for this family in every way. Even worse are the human consequences for a once close-knit and loving family.”

The saga started in 2007 when Julia Hawes, then a sitting magistrates, accompanied her mother to a solicitor’s office to change her will. The new will cut out son Peter Burgess, who had bought his mother a bungalow in Bradville’s Bridle Close the year before.

Mrs Hawes and her brother had ”fallen out” over the purchase of the bungalow but Mr Burgess, who remained close to his mother until her death, was unaware the will had been changed, the court heard.

Mrs Burgess died at the age of 80 in May 2009. Her son and her other daughter Libby immediately joined forces to challenge the will, saying their mother was probably mentally confused at the time.

In December 2011 Central London County Court ruled in their favour after hearing that Mrs Burgess was much loved and cared for all three of her children in equal measure

The court decided Mrs Hawes was the “driving force” behind the new will and ordered her to pay back £18,000 of her mother’s money she had spent while the frail widow was dying in hospital. The cash went on dental bills, presents and paying off a credit card.

Mrs Hawes promptly appealed against the London County Court ruling. On Tuesday she not only lost the case, but was ordered to pay her siblings’ legal costs.

She was unavailable for comment afterwards but her brother said: It is awful to have spent so long and so much but we felt we could not allow out mother’s wishes to be disregarded.

“Meanwhile Libby Burgess said: “I am very pleased with the outcome. Even though I would have received more under the invalid will, I always knew it was not what my mother wanted. She wanted to treat us all equally.”