Jean Clitheroe, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, left her daughter Susan Bond nothing when she died, aged 76, in September 2017, choosing instead to leave the bulk to her son John.
A mother is said to have branded her daughter a ‘shopaholic’ who would ‘fritter away’ her £325,000 estate if left anything in her will – forcing the retired bank manager to fight her brother for her share.
Jean Clitheroe, from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, left her daughter Susan Bond nothing when she died, aged 76, in September 2017, despite the pair previously sharing a close relationship; regularly shopping and going to Liberace concerts together.
But now Jean’s Last Will and Testament is at the centre of a highly charged family feud, with Susan’s lawyers claiming her mother was too unhinged to draft it.
Jean Clitheroe (second left), from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, left her daughter Susan Bond (bottom left) nothing when she died, aged 76, in September 2017, choosing instead to leave the bulk of her thousands to her son John
The mother and daughter fell out after Jean ‘formed various delusional beliefs about Susan with no rational foundation,’ including about her spending habits, claimed her lawyer Edward Hicks.
In her written instructions for a will made in 2010, Jean stated: ‘I don’t leave Susan anything else as she’s a shopaholic and would just fritter it away.’
Mr Hicks told London’s High Court that Jean turned against Susan after being left devastated by the death of her beloved eldest daughter, Debra, who died from cancer, aged 46, in 2009.
He argued the wills Jean made in 2010 and 2013 were invalid because her mind was unbalanced by her grief at her daughter’s passing.
The barrister argued that Jean died intestate – without making a valid will – and her fortune should be split equally between Susan and her brother.
Susan flatly denied being a spendthrift or shopaholic, and also insisted this would never have been a ‘rational’ reason for her mother cutting her out of her will.
But John’s barrister, Henry Hendron, replied the ‘strong-willed’ Jean was of sound mind.
The mother and daughter used to share a close bond. They regularly went on shopping trips and Susan took Jean to see Liberace (pictured in 1960) in concert
Her 2010 will left the bulk of her estate to John, while Susan was to receive only a diamond and garnet ring that once belonged to her great aunt.
Three years later, in 2013, Jean made a second will which again left John most of her estate, but this time Susan was to receive nothing at all.
Susan, of St Osyth, Essex, is now asking the judge to overrule both of her mother’s wills on the basis she was not mentally fit to draw them up.
‘She maintains that neither the 2010 nor 2013 wills are valid by reason of want of testamentary capacity on Jean’s part,’ her barrister said.
‘It’s not suggested that this impaired her cognition, but following Debra’s death Jean formed various delusional beliefs about Susan with no rational foundation, which she persistently maintained until her death,’ he added.
Jean thought Susan had taken an assortment of toy trolls from her elder daughter Debra’s home following her death from cancer in 2009 (file image)
These ‘delusions’ led to Jean ‘severing her relationship with Susan for the final years of her life and influenced her in making two wills which effectively cut Susan out of any benefit from her mother’s estate,’ said Mr Hicks.
In court, the barrister also accused John of ‘keeping his mother and Susan apart by blackening Susan’s name’ after they became estranged, although John insisted he repeatedly ‘begged them to get back together.’
‘In addition, or in the alternative, Susan maintains the wills are invalid on the basis of fraudulent calumny to the extent that John, rather than Jean’s disorder, contributed to her false beliefs about Susan,’ Mr Hicks said.
The judge heard Susan and her mother once had a ‘close and loving relationship’ and she even took her to see Liberace in concert.
Before Debra’s death in 2010, the two sisters and their mother enjoyed going on regular shopping expeditions together – particularly to the Bluewater Centre.
Far from disapproving of spending sprees, Jean herself bought high quality clothes at M&S and amassed a £30,000 collection of Swarovski crystal, said Mr Hicks.
But she formed fixed delusions about Susan after Debra’s death, said the barrister, including the false idea that she took various items from Debra’s home after her death.
These items, Jean believed, included Swarovski crystals given to Debra for safe keeping, an assortment of toy trolls, and a collection of prized Harry Potter books.
Susan was no shopaholic, Mr Hicks said, adding that her mother had ‘encouraged’ her to spend her hard-earned money before they became estranged.
Jean became hostile to Susan either because she was deluded or because her mind was poisoned by her son, claimed Mr Hicks.
But John in his evidence insisted he tried to make peace between mother and daughter. ‘I suggested to my mother that she should let my sister come and see her but she always said no. There was an impasse,’ he said.
Far from disapproving of spending sprees, Jean herself bought high quality clothes at M&S and amassed a £30,000 collection of Swarovski crystal, said Mr Hicks (file image)
‘Towards the end when Sue came round she said she would rather die than have help from her. She said she didn’t want to talk with her because Sue is an evil woman.’
Mr Hendron told the judge: ‘John says that Jean, a strong-willed lady, grew estranged from Susan for a variety of reasons – none of which were to do with any complex grief disorder or undue influence, since neither existed.
‘The main reason that Jean cites for excluding Susan from her will, and indeed the only reason that is common to all three letters of wishes, is Jean’s belief that Susan was a spendthrift and would only fritter away anything that was left to her.
‘Put another way: Jean’s view that Susan was a spendthrift was, even if wrong, not delusional.’
Jean also believed Susan to be rich enough already, argued Mr Hendron, having ‘married well’ and also retired on a generous bank pension.
John was struggling financially and so needed the money more, it was claimed.
Susan, a former Lloyds Bank manager, said the first time she knew she had been written out of her mother’s will was after the funeral – which she had arranged.
And she explained that she and Jean had fallen out when her sister Debra was dying, as Susan wanted her to have stronger pain relief.
She told the court: ‘I was desperate to see my mother and begged my brother to be able to go and see her. My mother didn’t think I cared about her, but I did. I was estranged from her.’
Susan had done her best to keep close to her mother, but Jean pushed her away, it was claimed.
At the end of the hearing, the judge reserved his ruling in the case.