Law lord who left £580,000 home to second wife's step-daughters instead of his sons was not 'deluded', High Court rules

Baron Templeman of White Lackington died in 2014 aged 94, and his son launched a High Court battle over the house

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Baron Templeman of White Lackington, who died in 2014 aged 94
Baron Templeman of White Lackington, who died in 2014 aged 94 Credit: Photoshot

An eminent judge and prominent law lord who left his £580,000 home to his second wife's step-daughters instead of his own sons was not "deluded", a High Court judge has ruled.

Baron Templeman of White Lackington died in 2014 aged 94. At the time, he had been suffering from dementia. 

Six years before he died, he signed a will leaving his home, Mellowstone, near Exeter in Devon, to Sarah Edworthy and Jane Goss-Custard. 

But his son, retired barrister Michael Templeman, launched a High Court battle over the home, saying the will should be ruled invalid on health grounds because his father's decision was "irrational".

Instead, he wanted an earlier will, written in 2001, to represent his father's final wishes. In the 2001 will, the law lord had split his estate between his sons, Michael and the Rev Peter Templeman, but he made the new will two months after his second wife, Sheila, had died in 2008.

Mr Templeman, 68, said his father's "memory was not working well and he was not thinking clearly", and added that he had even struggled to work a Sky TV remote.

Lord Templeman's first wife, Margaret, died in 1988, and he stood down as a member of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords in 1994. 

He married Sheila, stepmother of Mrs Edworthy, 66, and Mrs Goss-Custard, 70, two years later in 1996, and they moved in together at Mellowstone which, the Evening Standard reported, had been her home since the seventies.

But Mr Justice Fancourt ruled against Mr Templeman, finding that Lord Templeman had been on an "emotional journey" before deciding to leave the house to his step-daughters. 

"I consider that he was making a gift of Mellowstone because that is what he wanted to do," the judge said. He concluded that although Lord Templeman was struggling with his memory, he remained "a strong and decisive person".

He added: "It is very clear that, in sharing with Jane and Sarah the final years of his life with Sheila, he became very attached to them. They helped him to care for Sheila at the end of her life and they helped him to look after his and her affairs before her death and then helped him to cope with his grief."

However, the  judge said Lord Templeman "may have misjudged" his step-daughters' attachment to the house because they went on to sell it, but added: "He left it to them because he felt, emotionally, that was where Mellowstone belonged."

The sisters will now be able to keep the sale proceeds, while the brothers will split the remainder of the estate.