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Son loses appeal in name and arms clause battle

A disgruntled son of a baronet has lost his latest appeal over the sale of the family’s ancestral home. Philip Howard had claimed his father, Sir John Howard-Lawson, had broken the terms of his grandfather's will so had no right to sell Corby Castle in Cumbria.

26 January 2012

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However, the three judges in the Court of Appeal dismissed the challenge by Mr Howard against a ruling by Mrs Justice Proudman in London a year ago and backed her interpretation of an "eccentric" clause in a 1930 will.

The case rests on the application of the archaic terms of a will executed by great-grandfather Philip John Canning Howard, which instructed all subsequent heirs to change their surnames to Howard and adopt the family coat of arms. To satisfy the clause, the beneficiary also had to establish his legal right to do so by an application to the College of Arms, all of this before a deadline set by the will.

Philip Howard claimed that Sir John never satisfied the name and arms clause, since his petition to the College was not lodged until after the year allowed him had expired. He lost his claim in the High Court in January 2011.

Says Alan Dickins, partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore: “The Court of Appeal has not only upheld the judge’s decision that there was no independent obligation to take and use the Howard name within the year, but also directly addressed the question I raised as to whether the application to the College of Arms was sufficient to comply with the clause or whether the petition for the Royal Licence to use the arms should have been presented within the year.

“It has drawn a clear distinction between an obligation merely to “apply” (as required by the will) and a requirement to “present the petition” (words not used in the will), and it seems doubtful whether the Supreme Court would interfere with that.”

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Wills, Trusts & Probate