Brother fails in bid for greater share of sister’s €3.5m estate

Joseph Dee ‘stunned and disappointed’ to receive €45,000 after rest went to charity

Joseph Dee, a bachelor originally 
Former C
from Co Tipperary
, man and bachelor Joseph Dee,
 who worked all his life as a factory machinist in Dublin, said he had been stunned and disappointed at receiving only ¤45,000 of the ¤3.5 million of handouts his sister Mary Coffey distributed in a seven-page will. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

Joseph Dee, a bachelor originally Former C from Co Tipperary , man and bachelor Joseph Dee, who worked all his life as a factory machinist in Dublin, said he had been stunned and disappointed at receiving only ¤45,000 of the ¤3.5 million of handouts his sister Mary Coffey distributed in a seven-page will. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 14:38

An 80-year-old man told the High Court today he felt as if he had won the Lotto and lost the ticket after reading his millionaire sister’s will and finding she had left practically everything to charity.

Joseph Dee, a bachelor originally from Co Tipperary who worked all his life as a factory machinist in Dublin, said he had been stunned and disappointed at receiving only €45,000 of the €3.5 million of handouts his sister Mary Coffey distributed in a seven-page will.

High Court president Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns refused an application by Mr Dee to condemn his sister’s will on the alleged grounds she was not mentally capable, was extremely easily led and had been badly advised.

“I am quite satisfied your sister was of sound mind and knew what she was doing in making the particular arrangements that she did,” Mr Justice Kearns said. “She was very conscious of the needs of charities and she made that her priority.”

Michael Howard SC, counsel for the executor of the will, told the court Ms Coffey, a former nurse, and her late farmer husband had built up a substantial farm at Barranstown Cross, Emly, Co Tipperary.

Mr Howard said that following her husband’s death she had sold the land at the height of the market in 2005 for a very substantial sum, and later missed the main effects of the financial crisis by having the money held in bank accounts. Only €250,000 that had been invested in bank shares had been wiped out.

The court heard Ms Coffey had made dozens of bequests ranging from sums of €100 to €1,000 to €10,000 and up to €50,000 to various charities for the poor, the deaf and the blind, and to hospices, the Samaritans and even the Helicopter Rescue Service.

She had left comparatively small amounts to religious brothers, sisters, priests and missionaries and money towards the upkeep of churches.

Mr Howard said she had left €45,000 each to her brothers Joseph and David, the latter of whom she was living with at her death in November 2005 at age 87. David was not contesting the will.

He said that after up to 100 bequests, Ms Coffey’s estate had been left with just under €2.8 million which was to be distributed among charities as her executor, a distant cousin, was to decide.

Her solicitor William O’Donovan said Ms Coffey had drawn up her own will and he had advised her on certain matters. She had left only €30,000 to each of her brothers and on his advice she had increased these bequests to €45,000 each, a tax ceiling beneficial to both of them.

She was in good form and in his opinion perfectly capable of making her will.

Dr James McMorrow, her GP, told barrister David Humphries, who appeared with Mr Howard, that she had never at any time shown symptoms of suffering any mental deficit.

Mr Justice Kearns said Joseph Dee’s world had been turned upside down when he discovered what had happened. He was effectively stunned to discover that from an estate worth €3.5 million his sister had left him only €45,000. Mr Dee believed she would never have intended to leave him so little when she had so much to give.

Mr Justice Kearns said the challenge to the will could not possibly succeed. He was satisfied she was of sound mind when she had signed her will in front of three witnesses.