The corridors of power …

His children from his first marriage were contesting the will, drawn up shortly before his death, which left everything to his second wife.

I knew Richard quite well. We met in the early nineties at Fort Bovisand near Plymouth, where we were both learning to scuba dive. Where the rest of us were struggling on minimal budgets, Richard turned up in an enormous Jaguar with a full kit of mint-new diving gear.

No-one held it against him because he was such an amiable sort. My lasting memory of him is attempting to master the use of a dry suit (which fills with a thin layer of air). He had flipped upside down underwater, and the air blew his fins off.

The judge in the Sherrington case reserved judgement so we won’t know the outcome for a while. But these contested cases are often no better than a lottery.

Nina Wang, Asia’s richest woman, has just lost a 14-year battle to win control of a $130m (£70.1m) fortune left by her husband, who disappeared in 1990, supposedly the victim of pirates. The courts in Hong Kong ruled that a will made a month before his death, leaving everything to Wang, was a forgery.

My all-time favourite is the case involving Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy Playmate who inherited $474m from her husband, J. Howard Marshall, a Texas oilman. His son tried unsuccessfully to contest the award.

Smith and Marshall met at a strip club and married at a drive-in chapel in 1994, when she was 26 and he 89. He died the following year.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

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