Wokingham council accused of depriving mentally disabled woman of her inheritance

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Shute End Wokingham
Wokingham Borough Council's offices in Shute End

A woman with severe mental disabilities was ‘deprived’ of money left to her in her mother’s will because of the Wokingham Borough Council, according to her brother.

Following her mother’s death in September 2014, Coral Tucker, 66, was supposed to receive a legacy of £10,000.

But the council requested five times the amount of money from their mother’s will was needed for Ms Tucker’s care and sued the estate looked after by her half-brother David Tucker, 75, based in South Wales.

He refused, leading to a five-year legal dispute which left his sibling with a large legal bill and less money than her legacy originally promised to her – an example, Mr Tucker said, of ‘maladministration’.

He explained: “The council has spent more than £24,000 on legal fees to no good purpose and the estate a similar amount.

“It’s wicked what they’ve done. I’ve absolutely had enough of it. The council should not use their wealth and power to bully people like this and be unaccountable.”

Ms Tucker, now based at Basingstoke’s Eastrop House, never learnt to speak and was admitted into a residential mental institution aged three, where she remains to this day.

He explained £10,000 is all the amount of money Coral is likely to use. Her annual income from her allowances accounts for approximately £8,000.

“If she had needed more, I would have given it to her of course, as anyone would! It would be unthinkable not to. You just don’t do that.

“During all those years, my mother was never asked for any money,” Mr Tucker explained. “She didn’t need any – this was not uncommon. She was settled. If they had asked, a cheque would have been on the way within the hour.

“My mother felt she didn’t want to leave her nothing in her will. It was an emotional thing.”

In the five years since their mother’s death, Mr Tucker said the council created ‘more and more ridiculous claims’.

“Every time they came up with some mad idea, we had to counter it with our legal teams. This cost us a total of £150,000. We couldn’t get out of it. They started to say they would claim the lot – it’s your fault for claiming it.”

During this period Ms Tucker was sectioned in hospital and her former care home, Cornerways, refused to have her back due to her behaviour.

The council suggested a house needed to be purchased for Ms Tucker, complete with two full-time carers.

“The council even said I wasn’t to be trusted to administer money to Coral as I had a conflict of interest. I would try to avoid giving her the money, so when she died I would try to grab it.

“Her money was to be put into a trust to be managed by a firm of solicitors instead, and its fees will absorb 95.6% of the money. So Coral will derive no benefit whatsoever from what the council has done.”

He alleges that the council made a claim that was repeatedly modified, peaking at a demand for £536,000 in November 2018. 

But, a few days before the case was due to be heard, the council decided to settle on certain terms.

“Coral’s legacy was to be increased to £50,000 and the council was to pay us £24,000 towards our costs.

“This is a shocking way for the council to behave. The council clearly do not understand Coral would have had the benefit of her £10,000 legacy and now she will get nothing.”

Mr Tucker felt the council caused him a significant amount of undue stress, especially as neither he nor his sister live in the borough.

“It’s been horrible. It spoilt my retirement as I was always waiting for a phone call. 

“I’ve tried to talk to the council, I’ve given them the figures. But they basically just deny it — they have wasted £100-something odd of ratepayers money.”

Wokingham Borough Council’s deputy executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services, Cllr Richard Dolinski said the council does not share information about individual adult social care cases. He explained it always attempts to act in the best interests of vulnerable residents and believe it has done so in this case.

He said: “We have complied with all instruction given to us by the courts. We are sorry that Mr Tucker is now unhappy with the settlement that he previously agreed to in court. 

“Mr Tucker has been in contact with Wokingham Borough Council on several occasions after the case was settled and we have advised him that if he is now unhappy with the settlement he should refer [the case] to the ombudsman.”

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