Man wins right to inherit in battle over mother’s will

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A man who cared for his poorly mother has defeated a claim by family members that he was an ‘alcoholic and tyrannical character’ who crushed her free will.

High Court judge John Behrens upheld Frank Hinch’s right to inherit his mother Abbie’s home and possessions – and described him as an honest witness and dutiful son.

Judge Behrens said there was nothing suspicious about her decision to make him her sole heir.

Mrs Hinch, of Middleton Street, Amble, had fought cancer for more than 20 years before her death, aged 76, in 2007. She suffered increasing pain in her final years and had arthritis.

Mr Hinch, 41, moved in to care for her for the last eight years of her life.

His mother wrote in her diary that he had given up his freedom to look after her and she was grateful and felt guilty.

But Mr Hinch’s sister, Victoria Darling, 44, and half-brother, Stephen Paynter, 59, challenged their mother’s 2004 will in which she left everything to him, claiming she did not ‘know and approve’ of its contents before she signed it. They said Mr Hinch exerted a lot of influence over Abbie and was in a dominating position in her life.

But Judge Behrens said there was nothing in the diaries kept by Mrs Hinch to support those accusations

In fact, there was evidence that Mrs Hinch ‘gave the orders and Frank obeyed them’.

Judge Behrens said there was nothing about Mr Hinch’s character or behaviour to arouse the court’s suspicion.

He said he had been favourably impressed by Mr Hinch, and found it ‘surprising’ that his sister and half-brother had persisted in making such serious allegations against him.

The judge acknowledged that Mrs Hinch loved all her children, and that Victoria and Stephen maintained close contact with her after they moved south.

Neither of them were aware they had been written out of her will until after her death, but the judge said Mrs Hinch had stayed mentally alert until the year she died.

The judge said there was no evidence that Mr Hinch was ‘tyrannical or exercised improper influence over his mother’.