Widow loses to love rival 30 years her senior over late husband's will

Widow, 42, is left with 50k legal bill and misses out on share of her mother-in-law’s £840,000 estate after losing legal battle with her dead husband’s first wife, 73, in row over will

  • Maya Gocheva-Ash, 42, hit with £50,000 legal bill after losing her court battle
  • She had hoped to take her late husband’s share of a lucrative £840,000 estate  
  • But Maya lost out in dispute over the will’s use of the word ‘wife’ to 73-year-old Cindy, who was initially married to tech boss Don Ash who died in 2017

A widow has been hit with a huge legal bill after losing a court fight with her dead husband’s first wife in a row over her mother-in-law’s £840,000 estate.

Maya Gocheva-Ash, 42, was embroiled in a High Court dispute with pensioner Cindy Ash, 73, over the meaning of the word ‘wife’ in her husband’s mother’s will. 

Tech company boss Don Ash divorced his first wife Cindy, from Harpenden, Hertfordshire, in 2013, after leaving her for Maya, who was 31 years younger. They then married in 2015 and had a daughter together.

The broadcast engineer, who worked on launch of Channel 4 in 1982, died aged just 60 in 2017, and his mother, Joyce Appleby died two years later in 2019.

In her will, made ten years before her death, she stated that should her son die before her, his half of her money should go ‘his wife Cindy Ash’ with the other half going to Don’s brother Gordon.

But Mrs Gocheva-Ash argued at the High Court that as Don’s wife at the time of his death, the cash should go to her. 

However Cindy said that despite being Don’s ex she was meant to get the money as she was specifically named in the will and enjoyed a ‘mother-daughter relationship’ with Joyce, even after splitting with her son. 

But the judge agreed with Cindy, and ordered her to receive the share of her estate and ruled Maya should pay a court bill of around £50,000 to cover brother Gordon and Cindy’s costs of defending her claim. 

Maya Gocheva-Ash, 42, was hit with a £50,000 court bill after losing her legal battle over an £840,000 will with her dead husband’s ex-wife 

A court was told that Joyce ‘had never liked that bloody woman’ and ‘disapproved’ of Maya and Don’s relationship. 

But Maya denied that she and Joyce didn’t get on, with her barrister Nazar Mohammed arguing that she should inherit because the ‘will is ambiguous and/or equivocal as to the meaning of the phrase ‘his wife’.’ 

‘Upon divorce, Cindy ceased to be Don’s wife. All ties of kinship were severed,’ he continued.

‘The description of the ‘wife’ was to emphasise kinship and to ensure that the deceased’s estate provided for the family.

‘The description ‘Cynthia Ash’ is no more than a statement of fact showing that she was Don’s wife at the time the will was executed. 

‘Maya is the intended recipient of the gift under the deceased’s will,’ he submitted.

Don’s brother Gordon Ash, giving evidence, told the judge he disagreed however.

‘Joyce did not really feel that Maya was part of the family. Joyce disapproved of Maya’s relationship with Donald.

‘She called her “that bloody woman”.

‘Cindy had always been part of my family. She was not a divorced wife who was no longer a member of the family.’

He also denied Joyce would have wanted to leave her cash to her granddaughter, Don and Maya’s daughter.

Tech company boss Don Ash (pictured) died suddenly aged 60 – leaving his share of his mother’s £840,000 estate in dispute

‘The most important thing in my mother’s life was animals. Animals came first and children second.

‘She would have been more excited to see a new kitten than a lot of family members.’

Tahina Akther, for Cindy, also told the judge that Maya was never meant to inherit Joyce’s wealth.

‘Because Cindy was not Donald’s wife at the time of the deceased’s death does not mean that the deceased’s intentions changed as to who should benefit from the will,’ she said. 

‘Cindy’s case is that she and the deceased enjoyed a mother-daughter relationship.

‘Joyce and Cindy continued to meet each other, regularly attending lunches and enjoying a loving relationship. Cindy visited the deceased in hospital.

‘Cindy was family to the deceased even after Cindy’s divorce to Donald. The deceased did not approve of Donald’s behaviour or the new relationship with Maya.

‘Cindy contends she is the clear intended beneficiary as to the words “his wife CINDY ASH”.’

Ruling, Judge Scher agreed, saying: ‘In 2009 when the will was made ‘my son’s wife’ means Cindy.

The unexpected death of the broadcast engineer led to a court fight between the women over his half of the £840,000 estate of his mother, Joyce Appleby

‘In 2009, Maya did not know Joyce and the relationship with Don had not begun.

‘Sitting in Joyce’s armchair, those words meant that Don’s share was to go to Cindy should he die.

‘The natural and ordinary meaning of the words (in the will) is that Don’s share should go to Cindy Ash.

‘Every material point is in Cindy’s favour.

‘I find that by 2009 Cindy and Joyce had a very close familial relationship. Cindy described it as like mother and daughter.

‘Joyce’s relationship to Cindy in 2009 was not simply connected to her being Don’s wife, she was in Joyce’s mind a family member in her own right.

‘An intention to keep the inheritance in the family would have been fulfilled by the gift going to Cindy even if she was Don’s ex-wife rather than his wife. 

‘Joyce did not mean the words ‘his wife’ to mean whoever was his wife at the time of his death – the gift was to go to Cindy.’ 

He also ordered Maya to pay a court bill of around £50,000 to cover Gordon and Cindy’s costs of challenging her claim.

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