Two estranged daughters of a multimillionaire have each won a share of his will after disputing it in court.
John Boyd Harrison, known as Tim, died on September 23, 2016. He was survived by Nita Joseph, his partner of 38 years, and his two children, Catherine Cartwright and Sarah Harrison.
In his will, he left the whole of his estate, valued at just under $4 million, to Nita Joseph.
Subsequently Catherine Cartwright and Sarah Harrison took the matter to court claiming their father had breached his moral duty by failing to make adequate provision for them in his will.
The case was heard in the High Court in Whangarei in front of Justice Simon Moore on June 6.
During the hearing, the court heard of the daughters' troubled upbringing where Harrison was said to have failed to provide them with adequate emotional and economic support.
In his ruling, Justice Moore said Harrison and Esther Harvey, the mother of Catherine and Sarah, had an "unhappy and discordant" marriage and separated after seven years.
The girls stayed living with their mother, however during this time Harvey was diagnosed
with schizophrenia which led to a life of "instability; numerous shifts, frugal and uncertain finances".
"A related and ongoing source of stress and concern was Harrison's delinquent approach to his maintenance obligations. He either paid less, was late or simply refused to make payments," Justice Moore said.
Harrison met Nita Joseph at some point between 1977 and 1980, and the couple moved to Pataua South in 1982. They developed the property into a caravan park.
Justice Moore said initially Sarah and Catherine enjoyed a good relationship with their father, both living with him at points through their childhood.
However, over time this broke down and by the time Sarah was 10, she was "treated as an outsider by Tim".
Catherine's relationship with her father ended after she chose to move back in with her mother in 1988, against Harrison's wishes.
"Unbeknownst to her at the time, this would be the last proper contact she would
have with her father," Justice Moore said.
"She made various attempts to maintain a connection with him. But when she was 15, Tim wrote her the following letter:
"Please do not send anything else to me. It was made quite clear to you at the
time you left that your actions would severely affect us. Yet you made the choice to do it... As far as I am concerned, you made your bed, now you lie in it. I have no
time at all for disloyal people, they do not get second chances, ever."
The daughters lived with their mother for the rest of their childhood, leaving when they were old enough to go to university.
In his will dated June 17, 2004, Harrison left his whole estate to Nita Joseph and revealed his "chronic sense of bitterness and betrayal".
In the will he wrote: "I wish it recognised that my parents and my siblings turned their backs on me at a time when I approached them for help, some 15 years ago.
"They were in a position to help but refused. Since that time we have been estranged. Therefore it is my express wish not one of them is entitled to any share whatsoever in this estate.
"Similarly, with my eldest daughter Catherine Daile Harrison, for many years I devoted my life to her... Then, when Catherine was fifteen, she decided to go back to her mother, very much against my wishes.
"Since that time we have been estranged. She has made no effort at reconciliation and no contribution to the estate. It is my wish that she is not entitled to any share whatsoever in this estate."
Catherine and Sarah claimed their father breached his moral duty to them by not
making provision for them in his estate.
They also said he largely neglected them emotionally and in Cathy's case effectively abandoned her.
Justice Moore said there was little question Harrison had breached his moral duty to both daughters by making no provision for them in his estate.
"He acted with little or no regard for the emotional or financial wellbeing of his daughters.
"It follows that although by the time of his death Tim was completely estranged from Cathy and at best had a strained relationship with Sarah, his failure to remedy this state of affairs in his will constitutes a breach of moral duty."
Justice Moore subsequently awarded each daughter a 10 per cent share in the estate to remedy the breach.
The parties were instructed to make further submissions on what form the award should take.