An only son who was told by his late mother ‘it’s all yours’ is locked in a court fight over his £725,000 inheritance after her last boyfriend launched a claim for a share.
James Campbell, 35, says his late mother Sarah – with whom he had an ‘extremely close and loving relationship’ – promised he would have everything when she died.
He also claims her will, drawn up 14 years before her death in 2015, handed most of her estate – including the keys to his childhood home – to the son she ‘adored’.
Mr Banfield says he and Mrs Campbell lived as ‘husband and wife’ for more than 20 years before her death and he needs a payout from her estate to buy his own home.
However, Mr Campbell says Mr Banfield has plenty of money of his own and denies the relationship between his mother and the pensioner was as close as he says.
Although they had been an item in earlier days, he claims his mum was unhappy at Mr Banfield’s ‘sedentary’ lifestyle and he was more like a ‘lodger’ to her.
He lived entirely in the front room of their home in Thames Ditton, Surrey, sleeping in a chair, while his mother spent most of her time ‘in the kitchen’, said Mr Campbell.
He told the court: ‘She told me on several occasions that all she wanted me to do was to find a lovely woman, buy a house, settle down and have a family.
‘It’s what my mother wanted. It was my father’s house and then my mum’s house and my mother left it to me.’
The court heard that all agree that Mr Banfield’s relationship with Mrs Campbell began in the early 1990s after the death of Mr Campbell’s father.
Dog-lover Mr Banfield claims to have moved into her Thames Ditton home in 1993 and that they became engaged in 1999.
From then until her death, they lived as a couple, with her partially maintaining him in her home.
But Mr Campbell denies there was ever an engagement and says Mr Banfield did not move in until 2002.
The relationship, although at first romantic, was more akin to lodger and landlady as the years went on, he claims.
They slept separately, with ‘sedentary and obese’ Mr Banfield in the living room on a chair, he said.
‘My mother was the life and soul of every party and had a very active social life, which disappeared around when Andy moved in,’ said the son.
But, accused of being ‘reclusive’ and expecting to be ‘waited on hand and foot’, Mr Banfield said the claims were ‘ridiculous’.
‘They’re making all this up,’ said the pensioner.
For Mr Campbell, barrister Elaine Palser said his mother made it clear she wanted her money and her house to go to her only child.
‘He and Mrs Campbell had an extremely close and loving relationship, it was her long-term desire that he inherit the property,’ she told Judge Paul Teverson.
‘This was his childhood home and he lived there – apart from a short stint away – until he moved into rented accommodation with his girlfriend in 2015, just before his mother’s unexpected death.’
She continued: ‘Mrs Campbell wrote to her son before making the will saying how much she adored him and that her estate “is all yours”. She told her friends the property was James’.’
Ms Palser argued that Mr Banfield is not entitled to anything from the estate, beyond a £5,000 gift which Mrs Campbell left him in her will.
And he does not need it anyway, as he has money and an income of his own with which to buy or rent a property, she claimed.
‘He is far better off than James, with substantial capital and a very healthy annual income surplus,’ she told the judge.
‘James and his fiancee Octavia Gray would love to buy a property large enough to start a family.’
Representing Mr Banfield, barrister Rory Brown said he deserved to be awarded ‘reasonable provision’ from his former partner’s estate.
He suggested that Mr Campbell simply ‘didn’t like to think’ of his mother sharing a bed with Mr Banfield.She may have protected him from the fact of their relationship by not talking about it.
‘The truth is your mother knew the new relationship was difficult for you and she naturally spoke to her friends about the realities and sheltered you from them, didn’t she?’ the barrister put to Mr Campbell.
Mr Campbell replied: ‘That’s not the case.’
Mr Brown also disputed the claim that Mr Banfield paid nothing towards the household while living with Mrs Campbell.
He had paid council tax, electricity bills, the TV licence and for their annual Canary Island holidays, he said.
Mr Banfield’s sedentary lifestyle was because he has mobility problems, said the barrister, and it did not have any impact on Mrs Campbell’s health.
‘The reality is she had her own health problems that contributed to her untimely and premature death,’ he said.
‘She preferred to have that lifestyle. She preferred to live with Mr Banfield.’
The court heard Mr Banfield claims he needs at least £420,000 to buy a suitable property in the village. The hearing continues.