British widow's $30m fortune goes to Chinese couple
Tue, Dec 11, 2007
The Straits Times
THE family of a wealthy British pensioner who left her entire fortune to the owners of a Chinese restaurant have failed in a legal bid to have her will declared invalid.

Nephews and nieces of Ms Golda 'Goldie' Bechal claimed she was of unsound mind when she made the will leaving £10 million (S$30 million) to Mr Man Kim Sing and his wife Bee Lian.

But a judge at London's High Court ruled that the testament, made in 1994, remained valid when Mrs Bechal died in 2004 at age 88, leaving a portfolio of commercial properties to her long-standing 'best friends'.

'In my judgment, on the balance of probabilities, Mrs Bechal had testamentary capacity. The will executed by Mrs Bechal in August 1994 was valid,' judge Donald Rattee said on Friday.

The appeal was brought by five nephews and nieces - Sandra Blackman, Barbara Green, Laurence Lebor, Louise Barnard and Mervyn Lebor - who claimed they were the rightful heirs.

The Mans, owners of the Lian restaurant in the county of Essex, east of London, had been friends with Mrs Bechal and her husband Simon for many years.

The judge accepted their evidence that the widow, sad and lonely after the deaths of her husband and of her son Peter at age 28, became almost part of the Man family.

She went on foreign holidays with them, and they had regular get-togethers at the restaurant and at her flat in London, the court heard.

Mr Man described her as 'an upper-class posh lady' who dressed well.

She 'always enjoyed her Chinese pickled leeks and bean sprouts, which I bought for her', he said.

The judge concluded: 'It was not irrational to leave the bulk of her estate to Mrs Man, the daughter she would dearly wish to have had, and her husband.'

'We are delighted with this result,' said a lawyer representing the Mans. 'This has been about a friend's right to leave money as she wanted.'


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