Family of jockey Bunny Cox settle dispute over inheritance

Action taken by court-appointed administrator of the estate against widow Sally Cox

It was claimed Bunny Cox’s consent and/or signature to the deed of transfer was procured by duress and/or undue influence. File photograph: Getty Images

It was claimed Bunny Cox’s consent and/or signature to the deed of transfer was procured by duress and/or undue influence. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A High Court dispute over the valuable Co Louth estate of the late renowned amateur jockey Bunny Cox has been resolved.

The action was taken by a court-appointed administrator of the estate against Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, known as “Bunny”, who died in January 2006, aged 81.

The case began last week and was settled on Wednesday after talks on terms which include the sale of some of the lands attached to the family farm at Lisnawilly, Dundalk.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald, who had described the case as essentially a family dispute and appealed to the sides to settle it, welcomed the settlement.

Louis McEntagart SC, for the administrator, said the terms of settlement could be filed in court.

A key part of the agreement relates to the sale of part of the lands which will pay off outstanding debts on the property. It is hoped to achieve more than €1.7m from the sale.

Appeal from judge

The late Mr Cox’s son Richard, who has been successfully farming part of the estate, will continue to do so and all parties are to make their best endeavours to co-operate with that.

The judge also appealed to the parties to restore good relations because “life is very short and family relations are the most important relations we have”.

He struck out the proceedings but gave liberty to apply for the purpose of implementing the settlement agreement. He also made no order as to costs and vacated previous costs orders.

The late Mr Cox had appointed three executors of his estate, one of whom was his wife.

Anthony Coomey was later appointed by the court as administrator following the death of Chetwin Cox, one of the other two executors, and illness of the other, James Smith.

The administrator sought orders setting aside a deed of transfer of March 18th 2005, made between the late Mr Cox and his wife.

Under that, Mr Cox transferred the house and lands at Lisnawilly from his sole name into the joint names of himself and his wife. The effect of the transfer, if upheld, would be the house and property passed to Mrs Cox on her husband’s death.

It was claimed Mr Cox’s consent and/or signature to the deed of transfer was procured by duress and/or undue influence or the transfer amounted to an unconscionable bargain.

It was claimed, after the transfer, Mr Cox made a last will on June 11th, 2005, and he made further codicil, or amendment, of August 17th, 2005.

Under that will, it is claimed Mr Cox left 50 per cent of his house and lands to his wife; 10 per cent to each of his three daughters Jennifer, Michelle and Suzanne; and 20 per cent on trust for his son Richard for his life, to be split equally after Richard’s death between the three daughters.

Independent advice

It was alleged, when Mr Cox signed the March transfer document, he had been suffering from ill health for some time, having been diagnosed with lung cancer about November 2004. Other claims include he did not have the benefit of independent legal advice concerning the transfer document.

Mrs Cox denied the claims. She said the March 2005 transfer was in consideration of the natural love and affection her husband bore for her and is valid, effective and enforceable. She said he had independent legal advice and the necessary mental capacity.

She also claimed, without seeking to impugn the validity of the June 2005 will and August 2005 codicil, but for purposes of full defence of the case, the execution of the will was procured by duress and undue influence on her late husband by their daughters Jennifer and Michelle. The two daughters denied that claim.

Mrs Cox also claimed that, in earlier wills, the couple left their entire estate to each other if one died before the other.