Battle over famous author’s Will results in win for widower

Published 31 Aug 2018

Estates of artists and authors, especially if large, can cause disputes over what was meant in the Will and how to deal with the property. These disagreements can be further escalated by media coverage.

In a recent case before the Supreme Court in New South Wales, a renowned Australian author’s widower fought against claims that the her estate should go to an American university, stating that she gave her estate to him in her final Will.

Background on the author and her Will

Colleen McCullough, known best for her novels including The Thorn Birds, which sold more than 30 million copies and was turned into a popular television series, died in 2015 at the age of 77. Six months before her death she indicated in her Will that her estate would go to the University of Oklahoma, where she earned an honorary doctorate degree and was a board member.

However, three months later she changed her mind and decided to leave her estate to her husband of over 30 years. They had no children and she had no other living relatives, though her husband had two children from a previous marriage.

The executor of McCullough’s estate, as named in her final Will, was a long-time friend of the author. The argument posed by the executor was that, although the author altered her Will to give her estate to her husband, she only did so after he pressured her to make the change. The disagreement between the executor and the author’s widower has caused a lengthy Will dispute covered widely in the media.

McCullough’s estate is thought to be worth around $2.1 million.

The decision

The case was brought before Justice Nigel Rein in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. Judge Rein ruled that McCullough had intended to leave her estate to her husband. The ruling came after it could not be established that he had tried to pressure McCullough into changing her mind, and was supported by the fact that she had updated the Will before her death.

If you feel that you were treated unfairly in a Will and are interested in learning more about your options, contact us today at Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers. We offer free consultations and can help you determine if you are eligible to contest a Will.

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