Siblings at war over ‘barely literate’ fathers £100million estate
A rags-to-riches tycoon who dropped out of school at age 12 cut his son from his will, leaving the majority to his daughter because he was “barely literate” and “didn’t understand the document he signed.” heard a court.
Kevin Reeves made a fortune in real estate despite missing most of his formal education and being left orphaned in a convent as a child. By the time he died in 2019 at the age of 71, he had a huge business and investment empire worth up to £100 million.
He previously planned to split most of his fortune equally between his children Bill Reeves, 47, a businessman, hairdresser Louise Reeves, 35, and Lisa Murray – who didn’t know her father until she was in her 20s. Smaller but significant amounts would then go to the children of his estranged oldest son, Mark Reeves.
But in a dramatic turnaround in 2014, the Old Testament was replaced by a New Will, leaving the vast majority of the estate to Louise and Lisa, with Louise getting 80% and Lisa 20%.
Instead of receiving a whopping £26.7 million, Bill was left with just a handful of personal effects worth around £200,000. He is now filing a lawsuit to have the will quashed, supported by Mark’s 24-year-old son Ryan.
Louise Reeves, 35, was left with 80% of her father Kevin’s fortune of £100 million after his death in 2019.
Bill Reeves, 47, disputes will and demands a more equal share of his father’s estate
Bill alleges the 2014 document is invalid because Louise exerted “undue influence” on Kevin and “bullied” him into giving her the bulk of the fortune – consisting of around £80 million and a Rolls Royce Phantom.
As the fraught three-week battle in the Supreme Court drew to a close, Bill’s attorney Constance McDonnell QC told the court that Kevin couldn’t have known what he was doing because he hadn’t been able to read the document properly.
His literacy was so poor that he misspelled his other daughter Lisa’s name three different ways on one sheet of paper, she told the court.
“The evidence of Kevin’s literacy all indicates that he could barely read,” the attorney said.
Kevin Reeves: From orphan to £100m property magnate
Kevin Reeves had a rough start in life – when the court learned how he was left as an orphan in a convent before leaving school at age 12 with limited reading skills.
But through his ‘ingenuity and hard work’ he was able to rise from these humble beginnings and build a £100million real estate empire around Southampton.
He was described in court as having a “hard exterior,” which made him a famously tough negotiator. But he was also a devoted family man, relatives said.
Mr. Reeves made the most of his fortune to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, with a fleet of vehicles including a Rolls Royce Phantom and to take vacations to California and Las Vegas.
The preparation of the 2014 will appears to have been conducted on the basis of an erroneous assumption or belief by all attorneys involved that Kevin was a good enough reader to read and understand a draft will and an explanatory cover letter.
“It’s demonstrably clear that Kevin could barely write, and he couldn’t even spell words that were very familiar to him, such as his daughter Lisa’s name, or his address, or words he was trying to copy from printed text.”
Previously, Louise – who worked as a hairdresser for Toni and Guy before taking over her father’s business after his death – had denied as a witness that her father could not read.
“He could not have achieved what he had achieved without being able to read a document,” she told the judge.
“People would have ripped him off left, right and center. It’s absolute nonsense.’
Ms McDonnell accused her of exerting “undue influence” on her father and said Louise had shown herself on the witness stand as a “capable manipulator” with a “ruthless streak”.
“She tried, too hard, to portray a sickly sweet relationship with her father,” the QC said.
But for Louise, Thomas Dumont QC insisted there was ample evidence that Kevin could have read and understood the will before signing it.
“The fact that Kevin may have asked for the strange word to explain to him is not evidence of illiteracy,” he said.
‘It proves to be able to read correctly, to be able to speak in a newspaper article or document that needs explanation.
Kevin Reeves made a fortune in real estate despite missing out on most of his formal education and being left orphaned in a convent
“It’s also important to remember two features of Kevin’s character: he liked to see people underestimate him in business and he had a gift for letting other people do things for him.
‘The fact that he could ask people to read things to him fits perfectly with both these character traits.’
He urged the judge to “make his voice heard” and accused Bill of “effectively trying to silence him.”
“Kevin created his wealth out of thin air and denying him the right to choose what he does with it is a serious step,” he added.
Previously, the court heard that Kevin Reeves had made himself rich through his “hard work and resourcefulness” – despite being left to a monastery as a young child and dropping out of school completely by age 12.
Justice Michael Green will rule on the case at a later date.