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Millionaire leaves Estate to Neighbour

The Supreme Court of New South Wales has heard Betty Harris who died aged 95 in 2009 with no children, left her $12.5 million estate to her kind neighbour of 33 years who helped her with household chores, after feeling that her niece Coralie Hart was trying to force her into a nursing home.

After her Aunt died, Coralie Hart took the neighbour to court to contest her Aunt’s estate.

It was argued by Coralie Hart that the will her Aunt wrote in 2005 was not valid because she was deluded when she wrote it, thinking her niece was trying to gain control of her money.

The Court heard that Betty Harris had not spoken to her family for some 13 years.

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the will was in fact valid and Betty Harris was capable of signing it when she did.

In an ideal world the family kitchen table used to be the preferred forum for resolving messy disputes over inheritance. But like the above matter recently before the Court we now hear stories of brothers resorting to fisticuffs, adults not speaking to their parents and forced sales of much-loved properties as a result of deep divisions and long-held resentments. More and more jealous children and cheated wives and husbands alike are taking other family members to Court.

People will often tell me, “Oh, that will never happen in our family. Our children are so close, there aren’t going to be any problems.” However things can get really ugly with beneficiaries fighting over the craziest things. Usually it’s something that’s a reminder of their childhood. Pretty soon siblings will descend into the “Mum always liked you best” or “You always got your way”. Rationality can soon fly out the window and situations can turn even worse with people stealing items from the estate or bullying another into giving up a cherished item, causing hard feelings all around.

The most common grievance is that the will is ‘unfair’, along with the surge in documents being contested because of alleged mistakes, or the fact that the person making the Will was incapacitated or was put under undue pressure.

Many people have no idea that their wills could trigger litigation. They think leaving a will they have a right to do whatever they want, which is not necessarily the case.

On the flip side if you don’t have an Estate Plan at all what you are really saying is “let the Court decide who gets my property, who will be in charge and how my estate will be administered’. I am sure most of us would rather make those decisions ourselves.

Are you currently faced with this situation?

• You don’t have an Will?
• You haven’t reviewed your Will in a couple of years?
• You need further advice in protecting your interest as a beneficiary of a contested Will?
• You need further advice in contesting a Will?

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If the answer is yes then contact Melissa Tucker, on direct line (07) 5506 8204 or by email on mtucker@attwoodmarshall.com.au to arrange an appointment with a Wills and Estate  Lawyer today.

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Melissa Tucker

Melissa Tucker

  • Senior Associate
  • Wills and Estates
  • Direct line: (07) 5553 5803
  • Mobile: 0411 046 805