The widow of a millionaire lobster importer has been embroiled in a High Court battle with her daughter over a £1.1 million will.
Chris Ramus, who made his fortune after setting up a seafood business in north Yorkshire in the 1970s, took his own life in 2020 after struggling to cope with family issues.
Elizabeth Ramus, his wife of 48 years who had left him before he died, was already in possession of a £1.6 million fortune of her own.
Despite this, Mr Ramus set up a £900,000 trust fund through his will in order to provide a lifetime income for his estranged wife - but left the fund in the control of his daughter and two friends.
Mrs Ramus sued the couple’s daughter, 46-year-old Claire Holt, over control of the trust fund following his death because Mrs Holt was given the power to stop payments to her mother at any time.
The 77-year-old widow told the court she had a “strained relationship” with her daughter – who had criticised her spending habits – and didn’t want to be left “at her mercy” financially.
However, Judge Mark West, sitting at the High Court in Leeds, has thrown out her case, handing victory to her daughter and saying the widow has enough money to cover her own needs.
He said Mrs Ramus’s own assets total more than her late husband’s estate and that she had admitted being “cash rich” after selling off the couple’s former home and other property.
The court heard that Mr and Mrs Ramus set up Ramus Seafoods in 1974 before going on to open fresh fish shops in Harrogate and Ilkley, and becoming major lobster importers.
They ran the business jointly until it was sold in 1999, using its success to fund a “financially comfortable lifestyle”, living in a £1.1 million six-bedroom home in Harrogate and enjoying expensive overseas trips, flying business class around the world.
Mrs Ramus, a former nurse, told the judge that the relationship between the couple had been difficult at times, particularly after retirement, and that she decided to end it in 2019.
The news came as a great shock to Mr Ramus, who even telephoned his wife’s GP to suggest she had dementia. He became depressed and depended upon his daughter, Mrs Holt, for support.
Mrs Ramus found her husband dead in the garage of their home in Duchy Road, Harrogate, in June 2020 and a coroner later recorded a verdict of suicide, following pressure relating to his family issues.
Despite the separation, after gifts to grandchildren and his son from his £1.1 million estate, Mr Ramus left a £900,000 trust fund to provide his estranged wife with an income enabling her to “maintain her lifestyle”.
However, he left his daughter Mrs Holt and family friends Anthony Armitage and John Wardle in control as trustees, specifically stating that he wanted the payments to continue until they “feel necessary”, with the power to remove the income if his widow could pay for her own upkeep.
In her evidence, his daughter told the judge that, as executor of his will and trustee, her main concern was to “honour her father’s wishes” regardless of the state of her relationship with her mother.
The claim was “entirely without merit and should never have been brought” since her mother was not in financial need – she was an admitted millionaire with enough of her own money to live comfortably, Mrs Holt said.
Giving judgment, it was ruled that Mrs Ramus is not in financial need and had been treated fairly in her husband’s will, leading to the dismissal of her case.