Sisters of the Earl of Durham launch court action over inheritance (UK)

AN aristocrat from the North East has become embroiled in a legal fight with his three sisters over the fate of his multi-million pound inheritance.

Ned Lambton, the Earl of Durham, has fallen out with three of his five siblings over their attempts to claim a slice of the estate he inherited from his late father, the disgraced former Conservative minister Antony Lambton, in 2006.

Under British law the eldest male heir receives not only their parent’s title but also their entire estate – yet author and TV presenter Lady Lucinda Lambton, actress Lady Anne Lambton and Lady Beatrix Neville are hoping to apply Italian law, as the ex-defence minister lived there for nearly 30 years after being caught with a prostitute by the News of the World.

However, that would also include any assets the peer gave away during his lifetime – including the Grade II listed Lambton Castle, between Sunderland and Chester-le-Street, which is thought to be held in trust.

Now Lord Durham – who until recently had been negotiating with his sisters and their lawyers over the possibility of each receiving up to £1m in exchange for renouncing a much larger claim – has issued a High Court writ aimed at preventing the use of the foreign statutes.

The women’s lawyer, Ludovic de Walden, said the trio were “surprised” by the move, which “seems to have closed the door on what could have otherwise been a private and easily resolved family dispute”.

The High Court claim details how Lord Lambton made a will in 2004 – two years before his death – leaving his estate to his only son.

“None of the claimant’s sisters is mentioned in Lord Lambton’s will. No challenge to that will has ever been made,” the claim states.

The writ says the three sisters began legal proceedings of their own in September 2011 and that under Italian law all Lord Lambton’s assets should be included in the pot to be divided.

The seventh earl, whose previous wives include the current spouses of musician Jools Holland and actor Dominic West, is asking the High Court to declare that assets disposed prior to his father’s death do not form any part of his estate.

A spokesman for Lord Durham’s lawyers, Withers LLP, said: “Lord Lambton left everything at his death in 2006 to his only son Lord Durham, having already provided for his other children.”


Sisters of the Earl of Durham launch court action over inheritance
Michael Brown
May 20, 2013
The Journal