National Trust to inherit millions from businessman with dementia who cannot change his will

Adam Bennett
The businessman had clashed with the National Trust - www.alamy.com

A businessman who hated the National Trust will see his millions inherited by the charity, because his dementia means he can't change his will. 

Millionaire property tycoon Michael Collins made a will in 1990 leaving almost every penny of his fortune to the Trust before he and his wife clashed bitterly with the charity over building plans. 

But a High Court ruling last week saw attempts to get Mr Collins's original will changed fail, which means the Trust will now receive a £5.5 million legacy. 

The Trust will inherit proceeds from the sale of the couple's former home in Kensington, west London, which sold for £4.5 million last April as well as their Cotswold cottage, which went for just under £1 million in December 2015. 

Christine Collins died aged 65 in 2014 just weeks after contracting a severe form of cancer and her husband, 78, is now in a nursing home with dementia. 

She would have wanted the majority of her wealth to be donated to Opera Holland park where she was a patron as opposed to the Trust, family and friends said. 

Mrs Collins donated on a large scale to the opera house and gave funding to support the chorus in four operas in 2011. 

Last year the opera house, who previously named their their young artists scheme after her, awarded her a posthumous philanthropy award. 

The couple fell out with the Trust in 2005 after they disputed and overturned plans to erect a large bird hide and boardwalk on the boundary between their garden and a country estate owned by the charity. 

The businessman's wife wanted her fortune to go to the Opera Holland Park Credit: Alamy 

They felt the Trust's staff had been rude, patronising and dismissive of their concerns over the plans meant for the Sherborne country estate in Gloucestershire which is used to film BBC's Autumnwatch. 

Because the couple never had children, when Mrs Colins died her half of the couple's property assets transferred to her husband's estate and are subject to his will. 

Last week at the High Court Judge Jeremy Cousins QC said the couple had developed a "deeprooted antipathy" of the charity following the dispute. 

He also noted that in 2007 Mrs Collins had lodged an application for a statutory will, on behalf of someone who lacks mental capacity, but "not surprisingly it met with some resistance on the part of the National Trust". 

In her own will she had left £1 million in legacies and the remainder of her estate to the Glyndebourne Opera House and the National Theatre. 

Her close friend and executor Mary Padfield told the Daily Mail: "I'm just glad she is not alive now to see what has been going on."

Her brother Ian Pattison and his wife Eileen said it was hard to believe that the National Trust would receive the money. 

Eileen told the paper: "I have no doubt she would have wanted the money to go to the opera house, which was so much a part of her life. 

"It is hard to believe the National Trust now seems likely to get the lot." 

Alan and Penny Morris, fellow objectors to the three-bay bird hide and boardwalk on the Sherborne estate and she she would be "incandescent" about the ruling. 

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: "The NationalTrust is not driving any action to obtain funds in this case. We are only involved as we are the beneficiary in Mr Collins's will. 

"Had Mr Collins ever decided to alter his will to remove the National Trustwe would of course have respected that decision."