A self-styled Lord has won his case against his siblings that their mother left him £300,000 so he could look after her parrots.
Bret McLean, 47, who calls himself ‘Lord of Hastings’ has been locked in a dispute with Ian Mclean, 61, and two other step-siblings, who were completely cut out of their mother’s will.
Maureen McLean – the second wife of Ian’s late father Reginald – changed her will in late 2019 to leave all the couple’s wealth to ‘Lord’ Brett.
Reginald and Maureen made wills in 2017 splitting their wealth four ways between their son Brett and his step-siblings from Reginald’s first marriage: Ian, ex-squaddie Sean McClean and their sister Lorraine Pomeroy.
Brett McLean, 47, the self-styled Lord of Hastings, (right) pictured with former Prime Minister David Cameron (left)
Reginald and Maureen McLean (pictured with Brett) left a will sharing their wealth equally between their four children and step-children in 2017. Maureen changed it 11 days before her death in 2019 to leave it all to Brett
Reginald had ‘trusted his wife implicitly’ and believed there was ‘no way’ she would cut out her step-children after he died, the court was told.
But following Reginald’s death, Maureen changed her will to leave everything to her titled son, who describes himself online as ‘chairman, consultant, patron, trustee and president of national, regional and local business, charitable and voluntary organisations’.
Ian slammed Brett as ‘pretentious’ in court as the step-siblings sued to force him to split the inheritance he received four ways.
Brett claimed his mum left him her house in Seaside Road, St Leonards, East Sussex, primarily so that he could ‘continue to provide care for her green Amazonian orange winged parrot’.
Recorder Graeme Robertson has now handed victory to Brett, ruling that whilst Maureen ‘may have been morally bound’ not to cut out her stepkids after her husband’s death she was not legally bound.
Maureen left Brett the family home in Seaside Road – he claims so he could look after her pet parrots
Brett leaving Central London County Court. He told the court his mother had good reason to leave everything to him
Ian McLean (left) and Sean McLean (right) argued their father would have wanted the inheritance to be split four ways
Central London County Court heard that Reginald left his first wife and their three children in the 1960s and later got together with Maureen, with their son Brett being born around a decade later.
Brett – who is not a peer – was living in the family house when his parents died and it is still currently his home.
The house forms most of the wealth the couple left behind, with similar properties in the road having sold recently for between £300,000 and £400,000.
In 2017, Reginald and Maureen drew up wills and sent letters to all the step-siblings, stating that the house and the rest of their joint estate would be shared equally between all four children.
Reginald’s wealth passed to his wife when he died, but just 11 days before her deatth Maureen changed her will – leaving it all to Brett.
The step-siblings’ lawyer argued the 2017 wills were ‘mutual in nature, with Reginald and Maureen expressly agreeing that neither would revoke or alter the terms of the wills made’.
‘It is apparent and should be inferred from the facts of this case that there was a contractual arrangement, whether express or implied, between Reginald and Maureen to the effect that neither would later change their will without informing the other or following the death of the other.’ Brett told the court in his written submissions that his mum had good reason to leave everything to him.
‘The defendant’s mother left her entire estate to her only biological son – the defendant – so that he can continue to provide care for her green Amazonian orange-winged parrot and yellow and orange jenday (parakeet) and to continue providing housing for her son, as she knew the claimants all owned their own properties and would benefit from their mother’s will when the time arrives, and because her son did not have a property or a family because he had devoted his life to caring for his parents as he felt morally duty bound to do so.
‘The defendant’s mother left her entire estate to her only living dependant so he would have shelter and a place to live whilst remaining a caretaker to her parrot and jenday.
‘She would be able to continue providing for and protecting her son after she was gone,’ he said.
Ruling on the case, the judge acknowledged that Brett ‘has been living at Seaside Road since his mother’s death, where he takes care of his mother’s parrot and jenday.
‘The defendant says that, in contrast to the claimants, he does not have a partner or family of his own, nor his own real property.
‘He alleged that his mother wanted him to remain living in Seaside Road, where he could take care of her parrot and jenday after she had died.
‘These, he says, are reasons why Maureen would have wanted to leave the entirety of her and Reginald’s estate to him, and why she would not have agreed not to change her will.’
The judge went on to say that Brett had ‘ascribed opinions to his mother that, I suspect, are in fact his own, such as his statement that he ‘believed’ his mother wanted to provide for him, as someone who does not own property of his own, instead of the claimants, who do.
‘He was careful to express that idea as a ‘belief’ on his part, rather than as a report of something his mother had said.’
But he concluded that the solicitor who helped Reginald and his wife draw up the mirror wills in 2017 ‘told Reginald that there was no guarantee, even if he and his wife were making mirror wills, that Maureen would not change her will and leave the entire estate to Brett.
‘Reginald explained that he trusted his wife implicitly and there was no way she would do this,’ he said.
‘The specific issue of mutual wills was not discussed.
‘Reginald and Maureen both made the 2017 wills on the basis of their trust in one another, and, as [the solicitor’s] evidence showed, they did not contemplate a situation where either would wish to change them.
‘In my judgment, therefore, there was no legally binding agreement between Maureen and Reginald that they would not revoke or change the 2017 wills without the consent of the other.
‘Maureen may have been morally bound, but she was not legally bound.’
‘Maureen was therefore legally entitled to change her will and make the 2019 will leaving her estate to Brett,’ the judge concluded.