A window cleaner who converted his late brother’s fortune into gold coins to give to the homeless has been ordered to pay the money back to his family.
Peter Ivory, 58, said it was brother Michael’s dying wish for him to give his estate, worth £414,000, away and argued that he had done the morally right thing after his sibling died without a will.
He said Michael did not have a good relationship with his family and wanted it to go to the ‘hard-working poor and homeless’. After expenses, Peter was left with £367,000 which he distributed to people on the streets of Cambridge, the Isle of Wight and in Scotland.
However, the High Court has ruled that Ivory, from Hendon, north west London, did not have the right to do this and should have split the cash with their other relatives.
He now faces a £250,000 bill after a judge said he committed a ‘monumental breach’ of his duty as administrator of Mick’s estate.
Mr Ivory, will now have to hand over about £100,000 to his brother Alan, £95,000 to another brother John and £50,000 to his nephew, Michael.
Judge Timothy Bowles said: ‘You may think you took a moral position but what you have actually done is deprive other people of money that is actually theirs, and that is not a moral position.’
The court heard that Mick, 61, died without making a will and that Peter handled his affairs, including the sale of his home in Wallington, Surrey.
His estate consisted of the proceeds of sale of the house, his Lurcher dog Lady and a collection of rare Osmond Family memorabilia, accumulated by his wife, Pat, who died four years before him.
Under intestacy laws, which apply when someone dies without making a will, Alan, John and Michael expected to share the money with Peter as Mick’s surviving next of kin.
But Peter told the court he had been holding his brother’s hand as he lay dying in hospital and that Mick ‘made him promise’ that his money should go to him or the poor – not the family.
He said: ‘Mick told me to keep it all and, if I couldn’t keep it, to give it away. His whole plan was to make sure they didn’t get it.’
He said he took in the dog, gave the memorabilia to the Osmonds fanclub, handed out a few small gifts to others, and then converted most of the rest of the money.
Brothers Alan, John and nephew Michael subsequently put forward a claim for their share of the estate after a family row broke out.
In court, Peter accepted that what he did was against the law, but insisted he considered the rest of the family were ‘entitled to nothing’ morally.
He said: ‘Mick worked his whole life, 40 years on the underground, for that money. I couldn’t give them his money. They didn’t sit holding his hand as he was dying. They didn’t hear what he said to me.
‘He told me what he wanted to do. I thought my responsibility was to follow my dying brother’s wishes.
‘I made a mistake, but I didn’t make a mistake as far as my brother is concerned.’
As well being ordered to hand over £245,000 to the other family members, the judge ordered Peter to pay their lawyers’ bills for the case, worth about £10,000.
‘You knew that they had legal entitlements, but you decided that, because your brother had expressed certain wishes, you weren’t going to comply with the law,’ said the judge.
‘Legally speaking, it was completely wrong from beginning to end,’ he added. ‘None of this would be happening were it not for that election that he made.’
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