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Son denied promise of father’s business in will

The Court of Appeal has rejected a son’s claim that he was promised a controlling interest in his father’s business in a will.

Christopher Shield, son of millionaire engineering tycoon Richard Shield, hoped to challenge a previous ruling that there was no “binding agreement regarding the receipt of shares [in the company] by [his father’s] Will”.

Richard Shield separated from his wife in 2013 after 43 years of marriage. The £50 million divorce battle was described as “extremely tragic” by a High Court judge.

Over the course of the bitter divorce, Susan Shield, Christopher’s mother, sought a portion of her ex-husband’s engineering company R.A. Shield Holdings. Christopher wished to stop the award as it would affect his inheritance.

Between 2002 and 2005, the company went through a period of “restructuring”, with the aim of making it more profitable. During this process, Christopher received a substantial portion of the company’s shares, but not enough for a controlling interest.

The parents had initially both said they would leave their respective shares to Christopher in their wills. However, Mr Shield was advised by tax counsel that he “should not commit himself” to leaving his shares to his son and that bequeathing the shares was “a matter of intention not agreement”.

Sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice Rimer said the original judge’s finding of fact that there was no binding agreement was “fatal” to the Christopher’s argument. He added that “the grounds of appeal did not seek to challenge the facts” and was “doomed to failure”.

The judge therefore dismissed his appeal.

Lord Justice Patten agreed with the ruling, and added that even if the original judge had accepted that an agreement between the father and son existed, it “does not obviously create an immediate binding trust” (agreement). He concluded that nothing in the appeal was “sufficient to bar his mother’s claim for ancillary relief” (a financial settlement).

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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