Children of millionaire inventor win High Court inheritance fight against their ... trends now

Children of millionaire inventor win High Court inheritance fight against their ... trends now
Children of millionaire inventor win High Court inheritance fight against their ... trends now

Children of millionaire inventor win High Court inheritance fight against their ... trends now

The children of a multi-millionaire inventor have won a High Court battle with their step-siblings after demanding they were cut from his £5.4million fortune because he was suffering with dementia when he split his inheritance between his two families.

The four children of Dr Jack Leonard - a genius engineer who developed an early foetal heart rate monitor before later becoming a business tycoon and training as a helicopter pilot - claimed the will was invalid because he lacked mental 'capacity' when it was rewritten in 2015, and a judge has now ruled in their favour.

He was married twice, having four children with first wife Audrey Leonard and later treating 'as his own' the children of his second wife Margaret Leonard, who he controversially met through an online dating site and flew to meet in his chopper on their first date.

When he died, aged 87, in 2019, he split his fortune between his stepchildren and his own children, with each getting a share as ultimate beneficiaries.

But the two families went to war over Dr Leonard's final 2015 will, with his children Megan, Sara, Jonathan and Andrew Leonard fighting for their step-siblings to be cut out.

Dr Leonard's stepchildren - glazing company boss Mark Smith, 66, and yoga teacher Elizabeth Leslie, 57, said they were included in the will, along with the children of their dead sister Melanie - in a change from Dr Leonard's previous 2007 will - because of the close bonds they formed with him after he married their mother.

But this week at the High Court Mrs Justice Joanna Smith handed victory to Dr Leonard's own children, leaving his stepchildren with nothing from his will.

She found that the multimillionaire pensioner, who suffered from dementia in the years leading up to his death, no longer had the mental 'capacity' to understand all of the contents of his 2015 will by the time he made it.

Dr Jack Leonard was a genius engineer who developed an early foetal heart rate monitor, before later becoming a business tycoon and training as a helicopter pilot

Dr Jack Leonard was a genius engineer who developed an early foetal heart rate monitor, before later becoming a business tycoon and training as a helicopter pilot

Dr Leonard's daughter pictured Sara Leonard outside the High Court after hearing in dispute over her dad Jack Leonard's will

Dr Leonard's daughter pictured Sara Leonard outside the High Court after hearing in dispute over her dad Jack Leonard's will

Megan Leonard, who along with Sara had been a director in their father's flying school company, outside the High Court

Megan Leonard, who along with Sara had been a director in their father's flying school company, outside the High Court

The court heard Jack Leonard was a talented engineer, who co-founded Eurotherm International, a Worthing-based business which became a world leader in the supply of temperature control devices to industry.

The Manchester-born engineer began his career in Edinburgh, where he developed a foetal heart monitor, before going on to found Eurotherm with colleagues in 1965.

The business was a huge success, turning over £1m by 1970, when Dr Leonard temporarily moved his young family to Virginia, in the US, to take the company global.

Outside of his business life, Dr Leonard was passionate about aviation, trained as a helicopter pilot and set up Fast Helicopters, a flying school and tour company in Worthing.

He married first wife Audrey in 1958 after meeting at Manchester University and they had their children Sara, 60, former pub manager Megan, 54, and US-based Andrew and Jonathan.

Audrey died in 1998 and, the court heard, Dr Leonard very soon afterwards started using an internet dating service, something which Megan told the court was a 'concern' for the family.

He met Margaret through the dating service and their first meeting was on her 62nd birthday at Southend Airport, said his stepchildren's' barrister, Thomas Dumont KC.

'Jack flew in on his helicopter, wearing his pilot's epaulettes,' he told the judge. 'Jack swept Margaret off her feet. They were married a year later. Margaret adored Jack, and he was devoted to her.'

They lived together in West Sussex and latterly a £1.1million house in Hutton Place, Brentwood, Essex.

They enjoyed a 'very good standard of living,' travelling the world together and even flying for meals at hotels around the country in his helicopter.

Mr Dumont said Dr Leonard had an 'extraordinary close, loving and devoted relationship' with Margaret and her family.

With Margaret's grandchildren, he stepped into the 'role of grandfather in all but name, attending sports days, school plays, and taking an active interest in their academic lives and hobbies,' he said.

But he continued: 'Jack's relationship with his own children, and indeed Margaret's relationship with them, was different. This in part is no doubt due to the fact that Jonathan and Andrew lived in the US, Megan lived in Bolton and Sara in Teddington, some distance from Jack and Margaret's home initially in West Sussex, but subsequently in Essex.'

Sara, Megan and Andrew had not spoken to Margaret during Dr Leonard's funeral and wake, and she had not been mentioned in Sara's eulogy, the barrister said.

The court heard Dr Leonard had made a will in 2007, leaving his share of their home to Margaret, with most of the rest split roughly five ways between Margaret

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