Stay-at-home brother demands greater share of mother's fortune because top doctor siblings 'pursued careers' instead

Telegraph Reporters
Timothy Heath, 62, outside London's High Court. Mr Heath, who never moved out of his parents' home, is fighting his two doctor brothers Dominic and Jeremy over their dead mum's £1.8m fortune. - Copyright property of Champion News Service Ltd

A stay-at-home brother has demanded a greater share of his mother's £1.8m fortune because his high-flying siblings "pursued careers" instead.

Dominic and Jeremy Heath, who both have successful careers as doctors, left their parents' £1.5m London house as young men, each forging a career in medicine which has seen them reach "the top of their profession," amassing "wealth and properties."

But their brother Timothy, who describes himself as a "self-employed creative," never flew the nest and is still living in his dead parents' home at the age of 62.

When their widowed mother, Rachel Heath, died aged 93 in October 2015, she left a will, splitting her estimated £1.8m estate equally between the three brothers, and appointing them all executors.

But middle brother Timothy now claims he deserves a bigger share of the family fortune, because he acted as the "primary carer" for their mum "for many years" whilst his brothers "took none of the burden" and "left him to do it."

James, 53, and Jeremy, 65, however, say he is "over-egging the pudding" and should get out of their parents' house so the family wealth can be fairly shared out.

At London's High Court, Mr Justice Carr heard that the brothers' parents bought their Grade 2 listed family home in Corringham Road, Hampstead, in 1965 and their three boys grew up there, before Dominic and Jeremy left to make their way in the world.

The pair have each achieved distinguished careers in the medical profession, their barrister, Mark Baxter, said.

Dr Dominic Heath, outside London's High Court Credit: Richard Gittins / Champion News

Father-of-four, Dominic, is a consultant ophthalmologist who lives in Hertfordshire, whilst Jeremy, who the judge heard has also reached the "top of his field," lives in Wales.

Timothy is a maths graduate and a qualified barrister, but "was never employed", Mr Baxter added. He stayed on in the family home, where he has lived for over half a century, since he was aged 10. He devotes his time to "creative" projects and helping to run a society devoted to the life and works of William Blake, the court heard.

He said in the witness box that he was in effect an unpaid "live-in carer" for his mother for the last eight years of her life during her battle with dementia. He also told the judge that his sacrifice ought to be recognised by him receiving a bigger slice of her estate than his already "wealthy" brothers.

"I have been looking after mother for many years, a difficult person to look after. I was her principle carer for many years," he said.

Dominic, he claimed, "visited about once a month and stayed for an hour," while "Jeremy visited about twice a year."

Timothy explained that his mother had two paid live-in carers, but that he took on an equal share of the care duties unpaid.

Dr Jeremy Heath, outside London's High Court Credit: Richard Gittins / Champion News

"I never asked to be paid. I didn't ask to be paid for looking after a parent. But my brothers took none of the burden," he said.

"They pursued their careers and pensions and their income and they left me to do what they took advantage of," he went on.   

He told Dominic, as the brothers faced off across the courtroom: "You are employed as a consultant and you have multiple properties. You are a wealthy man.

"You offered no financial support. You didn't visit often enough for it to manifest any form of care. I've looked after her almost single-handedly.

"I don't own a house and I don't have a pension or a steady income.

"I'm not prepared to be bullied by people who have pursued a career with money and don't value things that don't attract money, and I don't think I should be made homeless or put into penury if it can be avoided.

Dominic, replying, disputed Timothy's claim to have acted as a full time carer for their mother and told him: "It's not your house, it's mum's house."

"I have admitted I am financially wealthy. I have saved assiduously. I am happy with where I am in life, but I want my children to be happy, and that's why we are in court, because you are not allowing my children the contents of our mother's will," he added.

Picture shows the £1.5m house in Hampstead at the centre of the row Credit: Champion News

He told the judge that for many years he "held Timothy in huge esteem and respect as the younger brother," but that their relationship had since "deconstructed" due to the "huge conflict" between the three over their mother's house and money.

Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Carr accepted that Timothy was "acting as one of three full time carers" for the last eight years of his mother's life, adding: "Dominic did not give any recognition of the fact that his brother must have given care to their mother.

"I accept that 24 hour-a-day care was provided by three carers, each doing eight hour shifts, one of whom was Timothy."

But he found that there was an "irreconcilable conflict between Timothy having a claim on the estate, on one hand, and being an executor on the other."

"His position is that, for several years, he provided care for his mother and his brothers did not.

"He claims to be entitled to a greater share of the estate than the 1971 will provides, that he is entitled to recompense and that his services to his mother ought to be recognised.

"That gives rise to a conflict of interest between his duties as an executor and his potential claim against the estate.

"I think that the claim to remove Timothy as an executor is well founded and I intend to accede to it."

The judge ordered Timothy to step down, to be replaced by an independent solicitor, but ordered the two medics to pay their own £25,000 costs of bringing the application to remove their brother as an executor.

He also warned the two doctors that they may have to step aside as executors themselves if further conflicts of interest arise.