Widow of tycoon is fighting £4m inheritance battle with stepchildren

US widow of British tycoon who died on transatlantic cruise is fighting £4m inheritance battle with stepchildren after she hooked up with him while he was still married to their mother

  • Graham Dines, 69, fell into a coma and died on a cruise with his wife Helen
  • His death sparked a war between Helen, 68, and her stepchildren, a court heard
  • Elliott Dines and Louise Henry are fighting her over properties worth £1.3million

The US widow of a British tycoon who died on a transatlantic cruise is fighting a £4million inheritance battle with her stepchildren.

Car dealer turned property king Graham Dines, 69, fell into a coma and died in 2016 while on the cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Southampton with his wife Helen Dines.

His death sparked a war between Helen, 68, and her stepchildren Elliott Dines, 42, and Louise Henry, 46, with whom she had a ‘strained’ relationship after starting her relationship with their father Graham while he was still married to their mother, London’s High Court was told.

Although he left his son his Rolex watch, Jaguar sports car and powerboat, Mr Dines split the rest of an estimated £3million fortune roughly equally between Helen on one side and his children on the other.

But his children are now fighting their stepmother at the High Court over who owns a string of rental properties in Bournemouth worth around another £1.3million.

On paper the properties were all either jointly owned by Mr and Mrs Dines or were in her name.

But the children claim they did not really belong to her, and instead belong to his company, which they inherited.

Car dealer turned property king Graham Dines (right), 69, fell into a coma and died in 2016 while on a cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Southampton, with his wife Helen Dines (left)

Through their father’s former property investment business, Provincial Equity Finance Ltd, which Elliott Dines now runs and owns with his sister, they are suing Helen saying the money for the properties came from the company and they should be handed over.

Helen is fighting the claim saying her late husband wanted her to have them and that she will demand a share of the £1.5million fortune he left his children if they are taken away from her.

Judge Andrew Lenon KC heard that in 1992, just after he and his business partner had sold their car business Grove Motors for over £1million, Graham met Helen in Boca Raton, Florida, and they began a relationship.

At that time, Graham was still married to first wife Frances Dines – mother of advertising manager Louise and Elliott – and already had a difficult relationship with his son and daughter, the court heard.

Simon McLoughlin, for the siblings’ company which is bringing the claim against Helen, told the judge that Graham’s children and Helen did not get on from the start.

‘The relationship between Helen and Graham’s children was strained to say the least,’ said the barrister.

‘And Elliott and Louise say that Graham’s own volatile relationship with Helen placed additional strains from time to time on their own, already difficult relationship with their father.’

In February 2000, Graham and Frances divorced and a month later he married Helen.

His death sparked a war between Helen, 68, and her stepchildren Elliott Dines (pictured), 42, and Louise Henry, 46, with whom she had a ‘strained’ relationship having begun an affair with Graham while he was still married to their mother, London’s High Court was told

The couple thereafter enjoyed an international lifestyle dividing their time between Florida, Spain and England’s south coast, with homes in each.

Graham’s health was a concern after he had a heart attack in 2000 and heart surgery in 2008. He was also hospitalised after a bleed on the brain in 2015.

Then in 2016, on a cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, while on a stopover in Lisbon he suffered a stroke or cerebral haemorrhage, fell into a coma and subsequently died.

Graham left most of his personal possessions to Helen, as well as his share of their matrimonial home in Poole, £100,000 in cash, his half share in a property in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and his pensions.

Although Elliott got his father’s Rolex, Jaguar XK8 and Bayliner 21ft sports boat, the rest – including his shares in the company and his half shares in his and Helen’s properties in Spain and Wiltshire – was split equally between his children.

But the family are now at war over 12 other properties in Bournemouth, eight in Graham and Helen’s joint names and four in Helen’s sole name.

Whatever names they were in, all were bought with company money and intended to be held on trust for the company in line with how Graham had conducted his business in the past, it is claimed.

Simon McLoughlin, for the siblings’ business, told the judge that the company (PEF) claims it is the true beneficial owner of the disputed properties.

‘Between 2002 and 2015, PEF says that it funded the acquisition of a number of properties, which were purchased in the name(s) of either Helen, Graham, Graham and Helen jointly, or Elliott,’ he told the judge.

Elliott and Louise (above) are now fighting their stepmother at the High Court over who owns a string of rental properties in Bournemouth worth around another £1.3million

‘The properties in question were almost exclusively flats in Bournemouth, which were renovated and then let and/or sold and the proceeds of such sales were frequently re-invested in the acquisition of further properties,’ he said.

He added: ‘The contemporaneous documents consistently record that the properties were intended to be and were regarded as assets belonging to PEF and that there was no intention that they – or any interest in them – be gifted to Helen Dines.’

As well as suing over the 12 properties, the company is also asking for £130,000, which Helen transferred to herself from Graham’s bank account before his death, to be returned.

They say the money belonged to the company and needs to be handed back.

But for Helen, Edward Hewitt said the transfer was perfectly legitimate, being her share of proceeds of sale of their former home, and said claims that the company provided the money for the Bournemouth properties did not ‘stand up to scrutiny.’

‘It is not enough for PEF to show that Helen did not provide the purchase money, it is also not enough for PEF to show that either PEF or Graham provided the purchase money,’ he said.

‘Instead, PEF must positively establish to the court’s satisfaction that PEF alone – and nobody else – provided the purchase money.

‘In short, Helen says PEF has no beneficial interest in any of the 12 properties, which are beneficially owned by her, save for one property which has been sold since Graham’s death.

‘Helen also explains that the £130,000 transferred to her represents part of her share of the proceeds of sale of her and Graham’s previous matrimonial home, which she and Graham had expressly agreed was owned equally.’

Mr Hewitt said that, in the background to the property dispute, Helen has also begun a claim against Graham’s estate seeking ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the Inheritance Act 1975.

‘Helen did not wish to challenge the terms of Graham’s will by pursuing a 1975 Act claim,’ he said.

‘However, she may be forced to do so if PEF manages in these proceedings to deprive Helen of the properties Graham intended Helen to have.

‘Helen’s 1975 Act Claim has been stayed pending determination of this claim.’

The hearing continues and the judge is expected to give a ruling on the case at a later date.

Source: Read Full Article