Deceased millionaire would not be happy about family row over estate

July 26, 2016

A deceased multi-millionaire Donegal businessman would not be happy if he could see his children fighting over his €250M estate, a court has been told.

The family of the late Donegal Person of the Year, Hugh Green are back in court in New Zealand as part of a long-running courtroom battle between his three adult children over his will.

Mr Green left his native Donegal in 1951, aged just 19, and was penniless but went on to build a massive fortune through farming and land deals.

He died of cancer in 2012 aged 80 years leaving an estate of $400M (NZD).

Now, three Court of Appeal judges in New Zealand have been asked to overturn a finding that Green’s last will, from April 2012, should be set aside because it was made under undue influence of his eldest son, John.

If the High Court judgment to set aside the will is allowed to stand, John Green’s sister Maryanne, who worked alongside her father for many years in the family business, would be the only family member still a trustee.

Lawyer Mark O’Brien, QC, told the court “If Hugh was looking down on us, he would not be happy.”

Attempts had been made to find a solution to the dispute, but nothing had emerged, O’Brien told the court.

The president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Stephen Kos, said it would be a great shame if there was no dialogue.

Lawyer Harry Waalkens, QC, said there was no quibbling with the High Court judge’s finding that Hugh Green was vulnerable when he made his last will, but the question was the degree to which he was susceptible to influence.

His strength of character was a common theme of the evidence, and it beggared belief that he would have allowed anything that did not accord with his own wishes, Waalkens said.

O’Brien said the dispute was not about the money for anyone involved.

The appeal was brought because the wider family wanted Hugh Green’s wishes respected. He wanted a “fair bit” to go to charity, and for the family to keep the businesses.

But he did not want Maryanne to be a trustee if she would not work with siblings John and Frances, O’Brien said.

There were potentially 17 beneficiaries of the trusts.

Kos said the trusts could be headed for a period of court supervision before being returned to family control when things had settled down.

The hearing is expected to take several days.

Hugh Green, was born in Raphoe but raised in Letterkenny, where he often returned in his later years to spend summer months.

He was awarded the joint Donegal Person of the year in 2012 and often donated to local charities including a donation of €200,000 to Letterkenny General Hospital to have a training academy built there.

The courtroom stand-off will undoubtedly have angered the multi-millionaire modern-day Robin Hood who gave much of his money away to charitable including many in Ireland.

He had always kept his business affairs private and insisted that the family should stick together.


Green was honoured for his contribution to New Zealand society with a Papal Knighthood and also received an honorary degree from University College Galway.

In latter years Green would often return to Donegal to spend several weeks there in the summer months and showed no trappings of his huge wealth.

He drove an old jeep and would often get his wife Moira to darn his socks and mend his clothes.