The son of a late Supreme Court judge has taken legal action against his father's second wife over $2.5 million.

Justice Sir Robert Chambers died peacefully in his sleep two years ago, aged 59.

He was survived by his wife, leading divorce lawyer Lady Deborah Chambers, QC, his sons from his first marriage, David and Christopher, and stepdaughters Caitlin and Zelda.

David Chambers, 31, who lives in California and works in the IT industry, is fighting Lady Deborah and another executor of his father's estate in the High Court at Auckland.

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Yesterday, the court heard that Sir Robert and Lady Deborah had agreed that in the event of his death, his sons would each receive an "enforceable entitlement" to a quarter of the couple's property, capped at $2.5 million.

David Chambers' lawyer, Jim Farmer, QC, said this entitlement would be part of Lady Deborah's estate upon her death unless it was paid out prior.

The court heard that earlier this year, Chambers wrote to Lady Deborah seeking payment of the $2.5 million but was refused.

Farmer told the Herald that his client was ultimately seeking orders that he is paid the $2.5 million.

A fall-back position was that the $2.5 million entitlement be secured until Lady Deborah dies, with an investment in Government bonds being one possible scenario that was raised during the hearing yesterday.

But Julian Miles, QC, acting for Lady Deborah, said his client and Sir Robert intended that whoever survived the other could use their assets freely.

While Lady Deborah could choose to pay out the $2.5 million during her lifetime, that was at her discretion, her Queen's Counsel said.

Lady Deborah, who is in her early 50s, and Sir Robert "trusted each other totally", he said.

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There was a strong likelihood that by the time Lady Deborah died, the estate would be a significant one and the need to make a payment now or secure it because of the possibility it might be dissipated was "remote".

The net value of the estate, at the time of Sir Robert's death, was about $12 million, Miles said.

This included a house on Seaview Rd in Remuera and a bach in Pauanui, the court heard.

Miles said Sir Robert and Lady Deborah brought relatively equal assets to their relationship when they got together in 2003, but at one point her earning ability was about three to four times his.

This week's hearing is partly dealing with whether David Chambers' claim can go ahead in its current form. It is expected to continue today.

Sir Robert died before being knighted, but the honour was bestowed posthumously because the Queen had approved it before he passed away.

At his funeral, he was remembered by colleagues as a man of "prodigious depths and talents".