A bitter family row over a high-flying banker’s multi-million-pound estate was settled at the High Court yesterday with his aristocratic widow claiming victory.
James, Timothy and Nicholas Cox-Johnson had insisted their father Richard Cox-Johnson was not “of sound mind” when he left £2.6 million of property to his second wife Lady Caroline.
But their hopes of landing the assets – including a picturesque 200-year-old, £1 million Gloucestershire home – were finally dashed yesterday. The High Court ruled the final will was valid after a judge was told widow Lady Caroline had come to an agreement with her three stepsons.
After yesterday’s settlement, the Judge said: “I congratulate the parties involved on managing to compose their differences”.
The feud had first erupted after Richard Cox-Johnson’s death aged 70, on March 25, 2005.
The three sons alleged their father had changed his will in February 2005 after being “taken advantage of by those around him” when serious illness, including Parkinson’s disease and strokes, had taken hold. Lady Caroline, daughter of the 5th Earl of Stradbroke and great-granddaughter of First World War Prime Minster Herbert Asquith, insisted her husband was sane and capable of managing his affairs, despite his ill-health.
She denied taking advantage of him and said he changed his will because she had not inherited as much as she had expected when her mother died.
Richard Cox-Johnson was a director of merchant bank Leopold Joseph & Co during the 1960s when it managed the finances of the Rolling Stones and other celebrities.
He left Lady Caroline UK asserts worth £2.6 million, plus a life interest in their Gloucestershire home, Skaiteshill House, St Mary’s, Chalford, Stroud.
His sons were left the assets of offshore trusts worth more than £6.6 million.
They asked the Judge to uphold an earlier will, made in 2001, under which they would inherit the bulk of his net estate while Skaiteshill alone would pass to their stepmother.
The question of how the estimated £300,000 legal costs of the case will be paid was not disclosed because details of the settlement remained confidential.
Normally in disputed will cases the costs come out of the deceased’s estate. Lady Caroline was in court when the agreement was announced by lawyers, but declined to comment afterwards. Her stepsons were not present.
The court heard that Mr Cox-Johnson had four sons with his first wife, Judith. She died in 1997.
The fourth son, Bevis, was born mentally and physically disabled and has already been provided for. Lady Caroline was originally married to John Francis Burnett Armstrong, and was widowed in 1992. She married Mr Cox-Johnson in 1999.