Millionaire cuts whole village out of her will

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When Gillian Goddard died last November, she promoted a major headache for a small seaside village. She was one of the directors of an estate which owns almost all of the village of Bantham in Devon - plus the beach and the surrounding countryside. Now the estate is up for sale, and the villagers are concerned about what will happen to their idyllic home.

But it could have been so different - because Goddard had planned to leave her shares in the estate to the village. She only changed her mind after a spat over a bus.



As we reported in November, after Goddard's death, the estate put the village up for sale. The move has created an enormous amount of concern among the villagers who are worried about possible commercialisation of the area - as well as the tenants who rent their home from the estate.

However, her husband, Tony, told the BBC that this wasn't always her intention. She had wanted to leave her shares in the estate to the village - in a trust fund to be used to protect the village in any way they saw fit.

However, before she died, the estate decided to allow a snack bus to park in the beach car park. Mr Goddard told the Daily Telegraph: "Gill's life's work was to look after Bantham. But one of things people asked for is whether they could get some food or drink on the beach. So they introduced a Gastrobus to avoid putting in some great big cafe, because they thought it would be environmentally friendly."

The move prompted a number of complaint letters from villagers, and Mrs Goddard was said to have been so cross about these letters that she decided not to leave them the shares after-all.

Mr Goddard said: "She was deeply upset by the suggestion that she and her fellow directors, having looked after the estate for all these years, would do something that was against that policy of preserving the estate. Her idea of leaving her company shares in the estate on trust for the village disappeared overnight."

Disinheritance

It's not the first time someone has created a storm by cutting someone out of their will. We reported in February on how Violet Baker has cut her Labour-supporting family out of her will and left £769,000 to the Conservative party - one of the largest ever donations of this kind. One relative said at the time that Baker had been a 'battle-axe' who had done it out of spite.

In November last year there was the case of the Australian woman who died at the age of 95 and left her entire £8.18 million estate to a neighbour. Her family took the case to court, but lost after it emerged that during her lifetime she regularly complained about them and said they were after her money.

In 2011 a woman in Hertfordshire finally won a share of her mother's £486,000 estate. Her mother cut her daughter out of her will (and left everything to animal charities) because she had run away at the age of 17. The court of appeal ruled that the move had been unreasonable - so her daughter was entitled to a share of the estate.

And there are plenty more of these cases just waiting to happen. A recent survey by More Than pet insurance found that Britons are secretly cutting their family out of their will in favour of the family pet. Almost 40% said they would leave more to their pet than their family and more than half plan to keep it a secret until after their death.