Family’s High Court wrangle over dead mum’s inheritance

Joyce Smith’s former house in Home Close

Joyce Smith’s former house in Home Close

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

A FORMER Oxford woman was moved to a Kent care home and cut off from her family against her wishes, a judge at London’s High Court has been told.

Georgina Leigh, daughter of Joyce Smith, 85, was also gifted £300,000 from the sale of her late mother’s Wolvercote home of 40 years after Mrs Smith’s death, it was alleged.

Mrs Smith’s niece and nephew are taking Mrs Leigh to court in a bid to get the house proceeds and interest from the sale split among her family.

They claim that Mrs Leigh, 60, waged a “sustained campaign” to isolate the widow from relatives after moving her in December 2009.

Mrs Leigh is alleged to have denied grandchildren Lisa Martin, 35, and Paul Kicks, 36, of Carterton, access to Mrs Smith from 2010 to December 2011, when she died.

They were on a list of relatives given to staff at Maidstone Care Centre who Mrs Leigh did not want her mother to see, Judge Stephen Morris heard on Monday.

Mrs Martin, from Derby, said of the final visit: “It breaks my heart to say that was the last time I ever saw her and the last time she saw her great-grandchildren, who were the last link to her dead daughter.

Oxford Mail:

  • Georgina Leigh

“I was very close to my grandmother. I loved her with all my heart and I wanted the chance to say goodbye to her.”

Mrs Leigh has said Mrs Smith’s Home Close house in Wolvercote – almost her entire estate – was given to her and husband Desmond as a gift to partly pay care home bills.

But her grandchildren said this went against her 2008 will, which divided proceeds among the family.

They claim she lacked the mental capacity to make an informed decision and Mrs Leigh exerted “undue influence” over her.

It is claimed her daughter moved her in December 2009 without telling the family and the locks were changed the next day.

Their barrister, Constance McDonnell, said Mrs Smith had made it clear she did not want to leave her house or be “put in a home” and her family located her through Kent social services.

She said: “Mrs Leigh carried out a sustained campaign of trying to prevent her having any contact with any relative other than her, her husband and their sons.”

She said Mrs Leigh, of Catkin Close, Maidstone, appeared to have “completely disregarded the deceased’s own wishes” that she wanted to see her wider family.

Mr Leigh, speaking for his wife, said Mrs Smith choked in her sleep and was taken to hospital in December 2009 and, as such, they feared for her safety. He said Mrs Smith said she did not want Oxford relatives at her funeral to avoid “trouble”.

In a statement to the court, next door neighbour Eddie Fidler, a resident since 1966, said: “Joyce regularly told me that she wanted to stay in her own home.

“Joyce loved her grandchildren and there is no way she would have cut them out of her inheritance willingly.”

Yesterday Judge Stephen Morris QC reserved judgement for a later date.


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