Two families locked in £700,000 court battle over London home
‘Illiterate’ painter’s two families are locked in £700,000 court battle over London home he left to his lover amid claims he disinherited his wife’s three children by mistake because he couldn’t read his will
- Kenneth Grizzle had five children with two women, including three with wife Ena
- These three claim they were disinherited by mistake because of his illiteracy
The two families of an ‘illiterate’ painter and decorator are locked in a £700,000 court fight over claims he disinherited his three eldest children by mistake because he could not read his will.
Hope Dillon, 65, Jo-Ann Morris, 62, and Leonard Grizzle, 64, say their ‘proud’ father Kenneth Grizzle always struggled with reading and writing, never read them bedtime stories as children and even dictated Christmas cards.
Mr Grizzle, who lived in Forest Gate, East London, had five children with two women – his wife Ena Grizzle and later his partner of 40 years Theodora Richefond – but left nothing in his will to the three children on the Grizzle side of the family.
But the trio claim their father must have disinherited them by mistake, because he always intended that their Victorian former family home would be theirs.
Instead, the terraced house in the ‘Forest Gate Village’ area and everything else he had went to former charity worker Ms Richefond, 73, when he died aged 83 in 2019.
(From left) Jo-Ann Morris, Leonard Grizzle and Hope Dillon outside the High Court after the hearing in the legal battle over the will of their father Kenneth Grizzle, who died in 2019
Suing at the High Court, the three now want their father’s ‘unfair’ last will torn up, claiming he could not have understood its terms because he could not have read it.
Who is involved in the legal dispute?
Kenneth Grizzle had five children with two women. He died aged 83 in 2019.
Kenneth had three children with his wife Ena Grizzle, whom he married in 1964. The relationship ended in 1974 and she died on an unknown date, which was before Kenneth died.
They bought their home on Sebert Road in Forest Gate, East London, in 1967.
Their three children, who are all still alive are Hope Dillon, 65, Jo-Ann Morris, 62, and Leonard Grizzle, 64.
Kenneth also later had two children with Theodora Richefond, 73, his partner of 40 years.
Together, they had two children, Lee and Kym Richefond, and also brought up Theodora’s son Gary from a previous relationship.
Kenneth and Theodora lived at a house they bought on Stanley Road in East Ham, East London, in 1992.
Kenneth’s final will in 2013 handed Gary, Lee and Kym his share of Stanley Road.
But it also granted Theodora the right to stay there for the rest of her life.
Theodora then got the rest of his estate, which – because Ena died before Kenneth – included the home on Sebert Road.
They want his fortune split between all five children under intestacy rules, but Ms Richefond is defending the claim, arguing that – whatever he had previously wanted – by the time he died Mr Grizzle had decided to cut out his first family.
And she insists that, however bad his reading and writing had been as a younger man, by the time he made the will he was literate, reading newspapers and sending texts.
The judge, Master Katherine McQuail, heard Mr Grizzle and his wife Ena were married in 1964 and had three children, buying their home on Sebert Road in Forest Gate in 1967.
However, the relationship ended and he left the family home in 1974, before later meeting Ms Richefond and beginning a 40-year relationship with her.
Together, they had two children, Lee and Kym Richefond, and also brought up Theodora’s son Gary from a previous relationship, living at a house they bought on Stanley Road in East Ham in 1992.
Mr Grizzle worked as a painter and decorator and continued to visit the Grizzle side of the family, never divorcing and still owning Sebert Road with his wife.
In 2013, he made his final will, which handed Gary, Lee and Kym his share of Stanley Road, but granted Ms Richefond the right to stay there for the rest of her life.
Ms Richefond was to get the rest of his estate, which – because his separated wife Ena went on to die before him – included the Grizzle children’s family home on Sebert Road.
Challenging the will, the Grizzle children say their father had always wanted them to ultimately have the Sebert Road house, which was there to ‘look after’ them.
They claim he must have believed that was the effect of his will, but was mistaken because he could not read well enough to understand its terms.
Their barrister, Adrian Carr, said there had been no evidence put before the court to prove that Mr Grizzle could read and write, and therefore understand the terms of his will.
Despite 500 pages of documents, not one showed his handwriting, he said.
Kenneth Grizzle had five children with two women – his wife Ena Grizzle and later his partner of 40 years Theodora Richefond (who is pictured outside the High Court)
His children said he had not read to them at bedtime and he had used another family member as his ‘secretary’ to help him with filling in forms, he said.
They said it meant he could not have read the 2013 will and understood that he might be disinheriting his three eldest children. He had been completely reliant on what his will writer advised him, they added.
Mr Carr said there was a ‘family understanding that Stanley Road was for the Richefond side of the family and Sebert Road was for the Grizzle side of the family.’
Giving evidence, Jo-Ann Morris described the situation as ‘very, very sad,’ because she thought her father’s other family would stand by that ‘understanding.’
‘What I am disappointed about is Stanley Road doing what they’re doing when it was always clear in our family that Sebert Road would come to us once mum and dad had passed,’ she told the judge.
Her barrister said that the Grizzle children had tried to get their father to make a will handing them Sebert Road, but he had refused, saying it would pass to them when their mother died.
‘The deceased was not concerned because he always believed that as Sebert Road was jointly owned it would pass to Ena and when she died it would pass to the Grizzle children,’ he said.
The house in Forest Gate, East London, at the centre of court fight over Kenneth Grizzle’s will
‘He was adamant that Sebert Road belonged to Ena and the Grizzle children.’
When he was reminded that his children with Mrs Richefond could make a claim against Sebert Road if their mother died first, he had become furious at the suggestion they ‘would do such a thing.’
Ultimately, their mother did die first, meaning her share of Sebert Road passed to Mr Grizzle under ‘survivorship’ rules and then to Ms Richefond under his will.
But for Ms Richefond, barrister Julia Beer said much had changed in Mr Grizzle’s life between moving out of the Grizzle family home in 1974 and the day he made his will 39 years later.
Although he had struggled with reading and writing, he had been encouraged to take college courses in the 1990s and his literacy was much improved by 2013.
‘Any difficulty with reading or writing which may have existed in the 1970s was historic and…there is clear evidence of the deceased being able to read and to write from old text messages from 2009 and 2010,’ she said.
‘It is clear that this is not a case where the testator can be said to have been illiterate.’
She said the will was ‘perfectly rational’ and that the illiteracy allegation had been ‘born out of disappointment’ on the part of the Grizzles.
‘They are disappointed because they have not been made beneficiaries of either of their parents’ estates,’ she said.
‘But it is not the job for this court to correct any perceived unfairness or to have an overriding consideration of morality.’
She added: ‘After Ena died, he owned 100 per cent of Sebert Road, but he didn’t change his will and didn’t seek to gift it to the Grizzle children.
‘That was his prerogative and his reasons for doing that were his own.’
The trial continues.
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