A man is suing his twin sister over claims she manipulated their mother into cheating him out of his inheritance.
Robert Simon has accused his sister Hilary Woolley of turning against him out of envy resulting from her own unhappiness.
Mr Simon blames her for telling their dying brother to write to their mother and persuade her to alter her will to exclude Mr Simon from his fair share in her £2million estate.
The twins’ mother, Constance Simon, drew up a will in 1996 which left Robert her flat in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, as well as her shares in the family business, dividing the rest of the estate between all her children.
At war: Robert Simon, left, is suing his twin sister Hilary Woolley, right, over their mother’s £2million estate
But in 2005, she wrote another version which split the entire inheritance between Robert, Hilary and their brother Jonathan, with a trust being set up for the family of their late brother David.
The document was drawn up and signed at Constance’s 88th birthday party, which Robert did not attend.
He claims that the new will is unfair because it blocks him from getting an effective controlling share in the family’s plastic company, R.W. Simon Ltd, which he has run for more than three decades.
The document was drawn up after David, who was dying from cancer, wrote to the other family members expressing concerns about Robert’s ‘cavalier attitude’ to his relatives.
Robert, 62, has taken Hilary and Jonathan, 63, to the High Court in an attempt to have the original will reinstated on the grounds that it better represents their mother’s wishes.
‘I showed Hilary kindness and generosity, as far as I’m concerned, at all times,’ he told the hearing. ‘I treat people as I wish to be treated.
‘Hilary behaves like that because, unfortunately, happiness has eluded her. I have always been happy with my family. It’s something that Hilary has found very difficult to accept.’
Robert, who lives in Chigwell, Essex, testified that after his father’s death in the 1970s, he started running the family business in Torrington, Devon.
He told judge Nicholas Strauss QC that he did not believe David was the sole author of the letter criticising his conduct, and claimed that his sister was ‘in the shadows’ influencing it.
He had responded to his brother, complaining about what he said was a ‘calculated and cold-hearted’ attempt to influence their mother to change her will.
‘I think that David was a tool, an easily used tool, and the author was Hilary,’ Robert said.
Dennis Sharpe, representing Hilary and Jonathan, disputed all the accusations, and criticised Robert for sending David a harsh letter when he was on his deathbed.
Robert’s barrister, Sarah Haren, argues that Mrs Simon’s dementia was affecting her so badly before her death that she lacked legal capacity to execute the 2005 will and it was therefore invalid.
The plaintiff told the court his mother’s memory difficulties had begun in 2002, and said her condition had rapidly deteriorated until she forgot major family events and started talking to characters on the television.
‘Mrs Simon was someone who wanted to please people and, in her impaired mental state, it was even more difficult for her to exercise her own judgment,’ Ms Haren said.
But Mr Sharpe pointed to the fact that Mrs Simon had not undergone a mental health assessment until 2008, a year before her death.
‘It is the defendants’ case that the deceased was very keen to treat her children equally and the 2005 will achieves that object, whereas the 1996 will does not,’ he said.
The court heard that, although the disputed company shares form only a tiny portion of the business, they are vitally important as they would give Robert more than 25 per cent, allowing him to block special resolutions.
Mrs Woolley, who lives in Halifax, Yorkshire, said outside court: ‘I love my twin very much and think that you do not take your family to court.’
The hearing continues.