A High Court battle is underway between a widow and her son, her daughter and two stepchildren. Her husband, Patrick Seale, was a correspondent for The Observer and a renowned historian and Middle East expert. When he died in 2015, he left a six bedroom property in London, now valued at £3.5 million, as well as an art collection. He was married to his second wife, Rana, for 29 years but had taken legal advice concerning divorce just weeks before he died.
Mr Seale split his wealth equally in his will between Mrs Seale and the four children, and severed the joint ownership of the property, which meant that the estate benefited from his half of the property, instead of passing ownership of the house to his widow.
Under English law, severing a joint tenancy can be done with or without the agreement of the other owner if they are acting upon their own share of the property.
Rana and her son, Alexander, with whom she lives, now face having to sell the property, and the two are at odds with Rana’s daughter, Yasmine, her half sibling from a previous marriage, Orlando, and Delilah who is the product of Mr Seale’s first wife and an affair with the author, Martin Amis.
Legal proceedings first started in May, when Ms Seale accused the three siblings as being ‘cruel, litigious and greedy’, as well as ‘ruining her health’ through their ‘burlesque proceedings’. Ms Seale and her son have questioned the validity of the severance and have suggested that Mr Seale was ‘unduly influenced’ at a time that his health was failing.
The three siblings are now suing Ms Seale to sell the house in which she still lives, and split the profits. She objected to the matter being dealt with by solicitors, who said they were seeking to resolve the estate as executors, so that all five interested parties could receive the correct inheritance.
Describing their marriage as ‘stormy’, Ms Seale said there had never been any question of divorce but due to missed procedural deadlines she had excluded from fighting the case.
A hearing will take place in December to decide on her application to be reinstated, so that she can jointly fight the legal claim for the property with her son Alexander, and to contest a court order to pass her husband’s Middle Eastern art collection to the three other siblings.
The full trial is scheduled for January.