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Scrap king’s son wins bitter High Court battle over late father’s £4million fortune

Gary Goodwin made the successful bid in the High Court over his late father Tom’s (pictured) £4million fortune

The son of a millionaire scrap tycoon has won a bitter battle over his father’s will – despite plans for him to be cut out of it.

Gary Goodwin made the successful bid in the High Court over his late father Tom’s £4million fortune.

Tom, who died in November 2018 aged 83, had been planning to write Gary out of any inheritance but died before any action was taken.

His estate was instead divided under the terms of a 2017 will, which made Gary his main heir.

The son received his father’s beloved Rolls Royce, one of his farms and the reins to his business.

Tom had a keen business brain despite his ‘limited ability to read and write’ and built a multimillion-pound fortune, having started out with a scrapyard in Barnsley in 1967.

Over the following five decades the millionaire moved into farming as his wealth grew.

He married twice and had three children, all of whom he had serious fallings out with over the years.

Weeks before he died Tom had been planning to cut Gary out of the will but never got round to formalising it.

His sister Jacqueline Avison and her daughter Nicola Smith argued the 2017 will was the result of pressure by Gary and a previous one made in 2005 should stand.

The old will would have meant Gary would get no more than his dad’s beloved Rolls Royce.

But they dropped their case midway through the trial and Judge Malcolm Davis-White QC ruled the 2017 document was Tom’s final will.

His fortune will be divided up under the terms of a 2017 will, which made Gary (pictured) his main heir

His sister Jacqueline Avison and her daughter Nicola Smith (pictured) argued the 2017 will was the result of pressure by Gary and a previous one made in 2005 should stand

His fortune will be divided up under the terms of a 2017 will, which made Gary (left) his main heir. His sister Jacqueline Avison and her daughter Nicola Smith (right) argued the 2017 will was the result of pressure by Gary and a previous one made in 2005 should stand

The reconciliation resulted in a new will in 2017, under which he got a lifetime interest in Santingley Grange (pictured), as well as the Rolls Royce and Pear Tree Farm

The reconciliation resulted in a new will in 2017, under which he got a lifetime interest in Santingley Grange (pictured), as well as the Rolls Royce and Pear Tree Farm

Giving judgment, he said claims the 2017 will was the result of fraud or pressure were groundless because Tom ‘knew his own mind’ and was not scared or overawed.

The court heard Tom had started off with a scrapyard in the 1960s, but moved into farming, buying two farms near Wakefield in 1997.

He had three children, Gary, 56, Jacqueline, 61, and Gillian, 59, all of whom he fell out with.

By the time he died in 2018 he was a grandfather-of-ten, most of whom had their own children.

The judge described Tom as ‘wily’ and ‘someone who would often say one thing to one person and another thing to another person’.

The judge said: ‘The breakdowns in relationships often seemed bitter and protracted. Tom would use strong language about persons he had fallen out with.

Tom had three children, Gary, 56, Jacqueline (pictured), 61, and Gillian, 59, all of whom he fell out with

Tom had three children, Gary, 56, Jacqueline (pictured), 61, and Gillian, 59, all of whom he fell out with

‘On Tom’s side these family breakdowns would often be characterised by a position taken by Tom that he would not give that person any of his property, whether inter vivos or by will on his death.’

He continued: ‘He had a tendency to tell people things that they wanted to hear. I am also satisfied that he did not always tell the truth.

‘He had a tendency to blame his falling out with members of his family as being down to their greed or the greed of persons connected to them.’

The judge said Tom sometimes ‘made promises he did not keep’ to his children regarding property.

He was sued by Gillian unsuccessfully and later caravan park boss Jacqueline, who pocketed a £250,000 settlement in a row over family land.

Gillian had been due to inherit the house at Pear Tree Farm under Tom’s will in 2000, but after their falling out she was left out of her father’s later wills, the judge said.

In 2005, he made a new will under which the shares in the company which owned the farms and farming business would go into a trust for the benefit of his grand-daughter, Jacqueline’s daughter Nicola Smith, 36.

His second wife Valerie would get his personal chattels, an income and a home for life at Santingley Grange.

The rest would go to various grandchildren and Gary would inherit only his father’s Rolls Royce.

Gary had been ‘largely out of favour’ at the time and his father was reluctant to hand him any property for fear one of his son’s ‘fancy women’ might take it, the judge said.

It was also claimed Gary 'physically dominated Tom (pictured), acting in an aggressive and controlling manner towards him in his old age'. But several days into the trial of the row at the High Court last month and after much evidence had been heard, the objections to the 2017 will were conceded

It was also claimed Gary ‘physically dominated Tom (pictured), acting in an aggressive and controlling manner towards him in his old age’. But several days into the trial of the row at the High Court last month and after much evidence had been heard, the objections to the 2017 will were conceded

But the court heard over the following years there was a reconciliation between Tom and Gary, with the son giving up his offshore work and working on his father’s farm.

The reconciliation resulted in a new will in 2017, under which he got a lifetime interest in Santingley Grange, as well as the Rolls Royce and Pear Tree Farm.

But the pensioner fell out with Gary in 2018 and weeks before he died contacted his solicitors to discuss a new will under which everything he had would go to Nicola.

But he died before a new will could be made, leaving his son to inherit.

The row ended in a court fight after Jacqueline and Nicola opposed the 2017 will, claiming it had been the result of ‘undue influence’ placed on Tom by his son.

During an alleged conversation, Tom was ‘said to have asserted that he did not have a clue what was in the will, the will was not read out him’ and that he ‘had given in to pressure’ from Gary in signing, said the judge.

It was also claimed Gary ‘physically dominated Tom, acting in an aggressive and controlling manner towards him in his old age.’

But several days into the trial of the row at the High Court last month and after much evidence had been heard, the objections to the 2017 will were conceded.

After considering the evidence in the case, Judge Davis-White approved the 2017 will and said the claims should never have been brought. Pictured: Gary

After considering the evidence in the case, Judge Davis-White approved the 2017 will and said the claims should never have been brought. Pictured: Gary

After considering the evidence in the case, Judge Davis-White approved the 2017 will and said the claims should never have been brought.

‘I am…satisfied that Tom was a man who knew his own mind and that he was not overawed by or in any way subject to the undue influence of anybody, certainly at the time of his execution of the 2017 will,’ he said in a now published judgment.

‘I am also satisfied that at least as late as a matter of weeks before his death Tom retained full mental capacity.

‘In 2017, he was still farming this land and actively carrying bales of hay.

‘He was not scared by Gary and that his will over what should happen to his property was not in any way overborne or subject to undue influence by Gary (or anyone else).

‘As regards illiteracy, there is ample evidence, available to the defendants, that Tom was aware of the contents of the 2017 will at the time.

‘Furthermore, and in any event, the defendants’ own witnesses intimated that the terms of the will had been discussed with him before he went to his accountants to go and execute it.

‘The evidence available shows quite clearly that Tom was aware of the terms of the 2017 will at the time and that it reflected his then wishes.

‘In my judgment, there were no reasonable grounds to raise a case regarding undue influence/fraud,’ the judge concluded.

He ordered the costs of the case be picked up by Jacqueline, Nicola and three grandchildren of Tom’s who had supported them.

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