The grieving partner of a cancer victim is being dragged through the courts by four charities seeking to claim her £340,000 estate.
When Tracey Leaning died in 2015, she wanted partner Richard Guest to have her property so he could give a home for life to her three beloved dogs, scotties Tilly and Eva and Cavalier King Charles spaniel Ben.
However, a previous will written in 2007 before she met Richard left her entire life savings, home and other belongings to four charities, including the Dogs Trust.
When Tracey Leaning died in 2015, she wanted her partner Richard Guest to have her property so he could give a home for life to her three beloved dogs, scotties Tilly and Eva and Cavalier King Charles spaniel Ben.
After Ms Leaning died, aged 54, Mr Guest discovered that, unbeknown to him, she had drawn up and signed a second will leaving everything to him.
That handwritten document, witnessed by two neighbours in 2014, stipulated that he should be left her house in Wythall, Birmingham, as long as he kept her three dogs.
But lawyers for charities Dogs Trust, World Animal Protection, Friends Of The Animals and Heart Research UK claimed her second will was invalid. Mr Guest has so far spent £10,000 in legal fees fighting the charities.
Now, despite offering to settle amicably out of court, they are taking him to the High Court soon to contest the ‘caveat’ his lawyer placed on the first will.
Mr Guest, 54, a graphic designer, said: ‘They have put me through hell. I’ve had to relive my loss and face financial hardship to defend the wishes of someone I loved. I almost lost the will to live.
‘It was only the realisation there would be nobody to care for Tracey’s dogs and the fact that she was relying upon me to do so which kept me going.
‘Thinking they may end up alone in an animal shelter, or separated, would have broken her heart. It’s ironic that three animal charities are pushing this case when all I want to do is fulfil Tracey’s heartfelt desire that the dogs stay together in a familiar place.
‘They are trying to say the second will is invalid because the paper with the signature on it wasn’t stapled to the other part, but it was in the same sealed envelope and was only opened by her solicitor.’ The case follows criticism of other animal charities such as the RSPCA, which was exposed for employing a ‘wealth intelligence service’ called Prospecting For Gold Ltd to assess the value of estates of people who had already given generously to the charity, without their knowledge.
Mr Guest and Ms Leaning met in a park in 2008 while walking their dogs and enjoyed five years together before Ms Leaning was diagnosed with cancer in late 2013.
On July 29, 2014, she wrote a new will witnessed by her neighbour, Mary Morris, and Mary’s son, Peter. She left her house, worth around £280,000, all her belongings and £60,000 in cash to Mr Guest if he gave a home to her dogs for life.
A statement issued by solicitors on behalf of the four charities said: ‘Charities are extremely grateful to receive gifts from wills as they enable them to make a real difference to people and animals.
‘If it is not possible to reach agreement about this, then the parties will need to ask the court to decide.’
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