An ‘unwanted’ son who claims he was cut out of his father’s £2.4million will because his parents resented him for being born could end up homeless unless he is handed his share of the cash, a court heard.
Colin Johnston, 80, sued his niece, Lady Natalie Wackett, 41, after his father, Lord Sidney Johnston, left her his entire fortune when he died at the age of 95 in March 2017.
He won the case two years after claiming the estate failed to make ‘reasonable provision’ for him.
He was awarded a £175,000 payout, but has still not received a penny and faces being made homeless as a result, his lawyers told the High Court this week.
Lady Natalie claims her grandfather’s estate should only pay Mr Johnston £60,000 because of a previous dispute between her uncle and grandfather.
Mr Johnston told London’s High Court he was an ‘unwanted war baby’ – born during the second World War while his father was serving in the RAF – and that his mother, Lady Elsie Johnston, resented him for getting in the way of her bid for Hollywood stardom.
He said his father had favoured other family members above him and bought manorial titles for Elsie, his other son Gary, his granddaughter Natalie and himself – making them all lords and ladies – while Mr Johnston was left out.
Lord Sidney carved out his fortune through running a car and property business in north London called Johnston and Sons, and left everything to his ‘adored’ granddaughter, the daughter of Gary.
Mr Johnston’s mother Lady Elsie died in 2013 and his brother Lord Gary passed away in 2016 – both before Lord Sidney.
In court, Mr Johnston claimed his mother Elsie always dreamt of being on stage or screen and told him as a child: ‘I would have been a Hollywood film star if it wasn’t for you.’
Colin Johnston, 80, claims he was cut out of his father’s £2.4million will because his parents resented him for being born. He said he could end up homeless unless he is handed his fair share of the cash. Pictured in 2019
Mr Johnston’s barrister David Giles told the court the cash-strapped pensioner needs financial assistance to help him meet everyday living expenses and risks being kicked out of his rented home in Barnet without a bail-out.
In 2019, Judge Edwin Johnson QC ordered Lady Natalie to hand over £175,000 – including legal fees – from her grandfather’s estate to her uncle, saying: ‘In my judgment, Sidney behaved unreasonably in making and maintaining his decision that Colin should inherit nothing.’
The court was told that as far back as the mid-1970s, Lord Sidney had decided to cut Mr Johnston out of his will – despite the fact that his oldest son had been working alongside him for around 20 years by that point.
Lord Sidney left a gross fortune of around £2.4million, the court previously heard, with a net value after expenses of around £1.4million.
Mr Giles had told the judge that Mr Johnston’s parents’ attitude towards him in childhood coloured everything that followed, ‘feeding a determination that Colin would not inherit, and favouritism expressed towards Gary, and later his daughter Natalie’.
Lord Sidney left everything to his granddaughter Lady Natalie Wackett (pictured), 41, the daughter of his other son Gary, when he died, aged 95, in March 2017
But two years later, Lady Natalie is now arguing at the High Court that the estate should only pay her uncle £60,000.
Her QC, Romie Tager, argued that Mr Johnston owes his father’s estate slightly more than £115,000, dating back to a previous legal dispute between father and son from 20 years ago.
And as the executor of her grandfather’s estate, Lady Natalie has the legal right to pursue her uncle over the debt, claimed her barrister.
Lady Natalie claims her grandfather’s estate should only pay Mr Johnston £60,000 because of a previous dispute between her uncle and grandfather
But Mr Giles disputed that his client ever owed his father £115,000, and said Sidney’s estate was morally bound to pay out the £175,000 ordered by the judge.
‘In order to make reasonable financial provision for Colin, the award of the lump sum was intended to satisfy or at least ameliorate Sidney’s unfulfilled moral obligation to Colin,’ he said.
Mr Johnston’s finances could unravel to the point where he and his wife can no longer make ends meet, said Mr Giles, adding that if ultimately forced to leave their current house ‘they are substantially at risk of ending up homeless’.
After a day-long hearing, Judge James Brightwell said he would give his ruling at a later date.
Mr Johnston told the court during the original case that his parents had always been hard on him and blatantly favoured his brother.
He said he had played a part in helping his father with the family business, but had been estranged from him since a bad falling out in the 1990s.
Awarding him the payout, Judge Johnson previously said: ‘It seems to me to have been symptomatic of a relationship between Colin and his parents, for which Colin was not ultimately responsible, which was always going to cause family strife, did cause family strife, and has now left Colin in the straitened financial circumstances which I have described.’
Although the estate he left was substantial, his will failed to provide for his struggling son, despite Sidney having a ‘moral obligation’ to do so, the judge found.