Dispute between mother and daughters over €30m estate back in court

The case concerns Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, known as Bunny, and her daughters, Jennifer, Suzanne and Michelle.
Dispute between mother and daughters over €30m estate back in court

High Court reporters

A dispute between a mother and her three daughters over the multi-million Euro estate of the late horse trainer and jockey Bunny Cox has returned before the High Court.

The case concerns Sally Cox, widow of John Richard Cox, known as Bunny, and her daughters, Jennifer, Suzanne and Michelle.

The daughters claim undue influence in the transfer to joint ownership of Mr Cox's Lisnawilly, Dundalk, Co Louth, lands to his wife some months before his death, aged 81, in January 2006.

Sean Sheehan, the solicitor who effected the joint ownership deed, told the court the property, which a number of developers have been interested in, is worth an estimated €30 million.

In a 1991 will, Mr Cox left the estate to his wife and, after their son Richard was provided for, the daughters were to get the residue. However, the daughters claim it was always their father's intention that they should all share it in it.

In March 2005, Mr and Mrs Cox signed a joint ownership deed for their home and lands.

In June that year, a new will was drawn up in which the daughters were to get 10 per cent each of the land with 20 per cent held on trust for Richard. Mr Cox was seriously ill with cancer for more than a year before his death.

Mrs Cox argues the new will was signed in circumstances where her husband did not have mental capacity due to "potent medication" he was on.

The case first came before the court in 2018 when a court-appointed administrator sought to have set aside the deed creating joint ownership, of March 2005.

The case was settled in 2018. However, because of problems over the implementation of the settlement, it was re-entered, and the hearing resumed before Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

Mrs Cox told Louis McEntaggart SC, for the administrator, that once the joint ownership deed was signed in March 2005, both she and her husband were of the belief that there would be no need for a further will.

However, they were informed the children could challenge the will under Section 117 of the Succession Act relating to adequate provision for children.

'Ructions'

Mrs Cox, who is representing herself in the case, said she believed the joint ownership deed was in effect the same as the will in which everything would go to her upon his death.

Her daughter Suzanne told the court she had taken over her father's role as trainer in the years before his death, but her mother did not want that.

Problems began when Suzanne's partner was put up as a jockey in a race with one of the Cox horses.

Suzanne said her mother objected to this and there were "ructions" but said she had cleared it first with her father.

She said that her father's training licence was ultimately transferred to her, but she said they had "an awful job" getting her mother to sign it.

She said her father made it clear that he wanted to provide each of his children with a farm while they were still young.

Michelle Cox, the youngest of the children, told the court she looked after her father's post/ administrative work and first became aware of the joint ownership transfer to her mother when she came across a cheque book in both her parents name.

Michelle said when she asked her father about this, he said it was because he was having trouble with his hand "and went off mumbling saying 'I hope I can trust her'.

She said that she also came across the 1991 will and thought it strange as it was "against everything our father made us believe".

She spoke with her sisters, and they approached their mother about it as their father was in hospital.

"She (mother) actually grabbed the pen and said what would you like me to write. Jenny was saying don't be so ridiculous you cannot change someone else's will."

Michelle and Jennifer drove to Louth County Hospital where they found their father on the phone to their mother in a distressed state, she said.

Their father kept saying it was not what he wanted, she said. He said it was "an old farmer's will."

They returned a few days later when their father said he would "make everything right".

The case resumes on Friday.

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