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Daughters of late Lord Lambton attempt to claim share of his estate
4:51pm Wednesday 9th October 2013 in News
DAUGHTERS of the late Lord Lambton have told a top judge they are ''sad and bitterly heartbroken'' a family dispute over their father's multi million-pound estate has ended up in the courts.
Lord Lambton created a scandal in his lifetime when he quit as a Tory minister after becoming involved with prostitutes.
When he died in 2006 he had been living in Italy for about 30 years after leaving Britain in the wake of the scandal which wrecked his political career.
His fortune went to his son and heir - Edward Lambton, the seventh Earl of Durham.
Under British rules of primogeniture the male heir inherits not only the title but the entire estate.
But it was argued today (Wednesday, October 9) that, under Italian law, all six of Lord Lambton's children are entitled to one-ninth each of the ''heritable property''.
Lord Durham served a High Court writ in May on three of his five sisters to prevent them making claims on his inheritance in Italy, which could each be worth millions of pounds.
His move upset his eldest sister, Lady Lucinda Lambton, the author and former television presenter, and her two younger sisters, Lady Beatrix Neville and Lady Anne Lambton, an actress.
Today (Wednesday) the sisters went before the Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Terence Etherton, sitting in London, and asked him to stay the proceedings launched by their brother in England as an abuse of process.
They argue it is for the Italian courts to decide what they should receive from their father's £12 million-plus estate, thought to include Lambton Castle, in Chester-le-Street.
ers, told the Chancellor: ''The applicants are sad and bitterly heartbroken that this family dispute should have ended in the courts at all.''
He described how the late Lord Lambton had lived in Italy since the late 1970s and made a statutory declaration in September 2003 that Italy was his domicile of choice.
He told the Chancellor the sisters wanted their brother's English legal action stopped so the Italian courts can make a ruling.
Mr Layton accused Lord Durham - known to friends as Ned - of wrongly ''seeking to interfere with a foreign court's process'' and applying for declarations in London in an attempt to oust the operation of the Italian succession laws.
He added: ''It is the Italian proceedings on foot that will ultimately decide the sisters' claim for a one-ninth share each of Lord Lambton's heritable property.''
But Lord Durham's legal team is arguing in a two-day hearing that all the family members involved in the dispute are ''habitually resident'' in England, and all the issues which have arisen are capable of ''fair and speedy adjudication'' in the English courts.
Dominic Dowley QC, appearing for Lord Durham, said the sisters were seeking not only a share of the assets of their father's estate, but also the multi-million pound assets Lord Lambton gave away, or placed in trust.
They appeared to contend that Italian law applied to all assets held by Lord Lambton at his death, and those disposed of during his life.
But they could not show that Italy was the appropriate forum for their claim and the resolution of the disputes which divided them from their brother.
Mr Dowley said: ''The claimants' case concerns solely English law. It raises no matters of Italian law.''
Referring to the sisters' ''sadness'' at having to come to court, Mr Dowley said Lord Durham had, over several months, been subject to their ''very substantial claims'' against him personally and against the family estates and now faced the threat that lengthy and expensive legal action could drag on for years if it went through the Italian courts.
Whilst issues could be settled ''relatively quickly'' in the English courts, proceedings in Italy were ''unlikely to come to a final judgment for a period of between 15 and 20 years'', he told the judge.
The hearing continues tomorrow.
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