Handwritten document ruled as final will in $900k inheritance dispute

Published 21 Apr 2015

A handwritten will found inside a red notebook has been ruled as the final wishes of a man whose estate was worth more than $898,000.

The former painter and decorator died in 2013 from pancreatic cancer having written a formal will in 1994. This document outlined plans to distribute the deceased’s assets equally to his sister, her four daughters and the three daughters of his late brother.

Furthermore, the 1994 will made provisions for a solicitor, the plaintiff in the inheritance dispute, to take up the role as executor upon the deceased’s death. However, the informal will written inside the red notebook showed a marked difference from the earlier document.

In the new will, thought to have been written in 2012, the deceased asked that his sister be made executor of the estate and requested the setup of a $100,000 trust for his grandniece. His grandniece claimed the deceased had become a father figure to her following the separation of her parents.

The informal will also excluded the testator’s nieces on his late brother’s side of the family as beneficiaries, with the court hearing that they had failed to keep in contact with the deceased or check whether or not he needed assistance.

Contesting a will

The solicitor and executor of the 1994 document challenged the informal will and asked to be granted probate of the original testament.

However, Justice James Stevenson ruled that the newest version was legitimate as it satisfied three important criteria: There was a document, it outlined the wishes of the deceased and there was evidence to suggest he intended it as his final will.

Not only did the deceased keep the notepad with him in a bag that he took to all hospital visits, he also outlined some of the provisions described in the will to his sister and grandniece.

Specifically, the grandniece testified that the deceased told her a trust had been set up in her name. The deceased’s sister, the grandniece’s grandmother, independently confirmed these details.

With the latest will given precedence, the distribution of assets was notably different. His sister is set to receive $100,000 from the proceeds of real estate sales, while the grandniece benefited from the $100,000 trust, an iPad, an iPod and other household items.

His sister’s daughters will all receive 25 per cent of the money from property sales minus $200,000. The daughters of the deceased’s late brother, who had originally been awarded an equal share of the estate, will instead receive 1/6 of any residue on the estate on an intestacy basis.

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