Friday, January 25, 2013
As I have previously discussed, Betty May Harris bequeathed her large fortune to her next door neighbor instead of her niece because she believed that her family was only trying to obtain her wealth and place her in a home. I also discussed that a judge determined that Harris' most recent will was valid. Harris was compelled to change her will when her niece, Coralie Hart, ransacked her home to locate Harris' will. Hart took the will and a number of other financial documents without Harris' knowledge. Mrs. Hart also sought to become her guardian and to appoint her son-in-law, Mr. Swindells, to be the "financial manager to the person and estate of Mrs. Harris." When Mrs. Harris heard of her niece's actions, she was shocked and became concerned about her niece's intention. She wrote a new will, revoking the will that bequeathed her estate to Hart. The will left her estate to her friend, Mrs. Gray. Mr. Gray helped his Mrs. Harris write a new will and obtained the assistance of two neurologists to help determine whether Mrs. Harris had the testamentary capacity she needed to write a will.
Needless to say that did not stop Hart from challenging the will, claiming that her aunt did not have the testamentary capacity to revoke her first will and write a new one. In addition, Hart claimed that her aunt was having delusions that her family was out to get her and her money. The court disagreed and held that to have a delusion, it must be "a fixed and incorrigible false belief which [the testatrix] could not be reasoned out of." In other words, the belief must be unreasonable. The court determined that Hart's conduct made Harris' beliefs appear reasonable under the law.
See Bernadette Carey, Australia: Valid Suspicions or Obvious Delusions? An Important Distinction For The Purposes of Assessing Testamentary Capacity, cbp Lawyers, Jan. 14, 2013.
Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.