The Facts

Pre-war relationship reestablished decades later

Prior to World War II, the deceased was on intimate terms with a woman, V. When V married someone else, the deceased lost contact with her, until they met again in the early 1990s.

At the time of his death, the deceased was a bachelor whose closest living relative was his first cousin.

In January 1993, when the deceased's health began to deteriorate, his cousin helped look after him, including visiting him for a month and cooking his meals.

No known will in existence at time of death of deceased

On 27 May 1993 the deceased went to stay with V. He passed away a few days later on 30 or 31 May.

After the deceased passed away, V began making funeral arrangements.

As far as the cousin knew, there was no known will in existence. She therefore stepped in and took over the funeral arrangements as the deceased's next of kin.

She also obtained an order that V deliver up the deceased's possessions.

Will made days before death of deceased

Then, in late August 1993, V's solicitors notified the cousin that the deceased had in fact made a will. They enclosed a copy of the will and stated that they intended to apply for probate on V's behalf.

The will was purportedly made on 27 May, just days before the deceased died. It was written down in pen on a single sheet of paper at the deceased's request by V's son, N.

It was signed by the deceased and was also signed by N and by V's daughter, H, as witnesses.

The will appointed V as the deceased's executor and left his estate, worth $730,000, to her as sole beneficiary.

Probate granted despite cousin's objection to will as a forgery

V applied for probate of the will but died before it was granted.

H and V's other son, B, acting as executors of V's will, then applied for probate of the deceased's will.

The deceased's cousin objected to the grant of probate, arguing that the will was a forgery. However, the judge granted H and B's application.

The cousin appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal.

case a - The case for the deceased's cousin

case b - The case for V's children

  • The creation of the handwritten document purporting to be my cousin's will was surrounded by very suspicious circumstances.
  • My cousin's signature on that document was a forgery. As the forensic document examiner who gave evidence on my behalf said, the signature was a simulation, and not even a good one.
  • My cousin was also gravely ill when the purported will was allegedly signed, dying just three or four days later. He would not have understood or approved of its contents.
  • The only individuals able to provide evidence of my cousin's supposed wishes are V's children, who now stand to benefit substantially if the alleged will is granted probate.
  • It is also quite suspicious that V and her children did not disclose the existence of the purported will for several months, despite me seeking an order that they deliver up my cousin's possessions shortly after his death.
  • It is clear that the handwritten document is not my cousin's true intended will and the court must set aside the grant of probate.
  • Contrary to what the deceased's cousin says, the circumstances surrounding the making of the deceased's will were not suspicious.
  • Our mother and the deceased had a long history together, dating back to before World War II. The deceased even indicated to N that he had asked our mother to marry him. Our mother is also the one who rushed the deceased to hospital for treatment before he died. So, it is not surprising that he chose to leave his estate to her. This is particularly so since the deceased told us that his cousin had stolen from him.
  • It is true that N assisted the deceased to write his will. However, this was only after telling the deceased repeatedly that he should use a solicitor. The deceased nevertheless insisted on the will being made then and there.
  • At the time he assisted the deceased, N was studying law, was a practising public accountant and was a former member of the Victorian police. He did not think that the deceased had any property of real value. Further, he ensured that our mother was outside the room while taking instructions for the will. He also had the deceased read the will out aloud and confirm that he was satisfied with the wording before signing it.
  • As for the allegation that the deceased's signature on the will was forged, our forensic scientist was not prepared to say that it was.
  • The will was the deceased's true intended will and the court must uphold the judge's grant of probate.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out

Kelly Brown
Will disputes
Stacks Law Firm

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