News, Culture & Society

Sister of fondue chef accuses him of emptying £1.2million from their father’s bank account

The sister of a helicopter-flying fondue chef is waging ‘battle royale on him’ in court over accusations he took almost half of their dad’s fortune before he died.

Former artist and company boss Michael Isenschmid passed away in 2017, leaving behind a £1.5million estate. 

But daughter Charlotte Isenschmid has accused her chef brother Tom Isenschmid of taking an additional £1.2million out of their dad’s bank accounts prior to his death. 

That included £328,000 worth of property, investments and cash in England, £654,000 worth of property in Switzerland and £506,000 in cash and investments in South Africa.

Charlotte Isenschmid claimed her brother emptied £1.2million out of their dad’s bank accounts prior to his death

Tom Isenschmid, a London chef who specialises in Swiss delicacies, was the executor of his father's will but denies any wrongdoing

Tom Isenschmid, a London chef who specialises in Swiss delicacies, was the executor of his father’s will but denies any wrongdoing

Ms Isenschmid told a judge that her dad once had another £1.2million in his bank accounts and that she plans to sue her ‘arrogant and self-assured’ brother – a London chef who specialises in Swiss delicacies – over the allegedly missing seven-figure sum.

Mr Isenschmid, a trained helicopter pilot who lives in Fulham with his handbag designer wife, denies any wrongdoing and accuses his sister of being ‘unreasonably combative’.

But at a High Court hearing, he agreed to step down as executor of his father’s estate after Ms Isenschmid brought proceedings to remove him.

Deputy Master Matthew Marsh heard that the siblings’ father, who lived in London, died on 8 August 2017, leaving a will dated May 2006 which left his whole fortune in trusts made in South Africa.

But a photocopy was then found by his son of another will dated six months later, appointing him as executor and splitting the estate between the siblings.

The original of that will – dated November 2006 – has never been found, but the photocopy was accepted as an official document and his estate was entered into probate, with the young Mr Isenschmid in charge of gathering in and distributing the assets.

Ms Isenschmid initially refused to accept that the November will was valid.

Then in 2021 through her solicitors she ‘sent a letter… admitting the validity of the November 2006 will but requiring Tom Isenschmid to be replaced with an independent administrator because of the hostility between Charlotte and Tom because of disputed lifetime transfers from the deceased’s accounts’.

Aiden Briggs, for Mr Isenschmid, told the judge that Ms Isenschmid’s ‘grounds for removal [of her brother as executor] are that he is subject to a conflict of interest because Charlotte challenges various lifetime transactions made from the deceased’s bank account, said to total £1.2million, and the relationship between Charlotte and Tom has broken down irretrievably’.

Representing herself at the hearing before Deputy Master Marsh, Ms Isenschmid told him: ‘My brother is not capable of dealing with the estate, he’s ruined it.

‘Every single penny my brother is spending he’s taken from my father. He didn’t have any money of his own…He is being arrogant and self-assured with somebody else’s money.’

She continued: ‘£1.2million was taken from my father’s accounts… It’s been so frustrating. I just want justice for my father in the end.’

Mr Briggs told the judge that there is a ‘great deal of animosity’ between brother and sister.

‘The claimant is not afraid of making allegations without having the evidence to back them up and that has exacerbated the acrimony between the parties and the cost of the proceedings,’ he said.

He told the judge that, as well as challenging the lifetime transfers, Ms Isenschmid now claims that the £500,000 South African portion of her father’s estate should be hers alone.

‘Her case as issued is a dramatic shift from her case pre-action,’ he said. ‘In particular, she has now made a claim to the entirety of the South African assets.’

She also claims that the Fulham flat her brother is living in belongs partly to her and that he is ‘squatting’.

The barrister told the judge that his client’s sister Ms Isenschmid had been ‘unreasonably combative,’ adding: ‘There has been no attempt to narrow the issues or seek any practical solutions in this estate.

‘Rather, she appears determined to wage battle royale on her brother, raising every possible allegation, whether reasonable or not.’

Telling the judge that, on November 17 this year, Mr Isenschmid agreed by consent to be replaced as executor, Mr Briggs added: ‘Tom had never seriously resisted removal, he has only sought time to gather in and secure the estate assets. 

‘This is entirely reasonable. Charlotte has refused every invitation to mediate this dispute.’

Giving judgment, Deputy Master Marsh ordered by consent that Tom be removed as executor of the will and be replaced by a professional executor from the Cripps Trust Corporation Ltd.

He said Ms Isenschmid had brought her case based on claims about ‘the administration of the estate and the manner in which their father’s assets were managed during his lifetime.

He added: ‘She alleges that substantial sums of money were removed from their father’s accounts by the defendant during his lifetime.

‘There has been no determination by the court of any of the allegations that have been made.

‘Nothing I say in this judgment gives any indication or view about the rights or wrongs of the arguments which have been made.’

He went on to comment that there is ‘considerable acrimony between the parties,’ adding: ‘The strength of feeling between the two parties is deep and powerful.

‘It would have been highly desirable for mediation to take place and there must have been a real prospect of mediation achieving some of the outcomes that the court has achieved today.’

Urging the siblings to settle their differences without having to face each other across a courtroom again, the judge told the pair: ‘The feelings you have about your father’s estate and between both of you are very unfortunate.

‘Continued disputes will lead to you each receiving less from your father’s estate.

‘There might be rights and wrongs that need to be established, but you should think long and hard before starting the next stage.’