Bewitched by a child…not unduly influenced!

A short summary and a quotable quote in the latest blog post.

The basic facts are that the deceased suffered a significant brain injury as a child, and needed assistance from his parents for the rest of their lives. He made a series of wills throughout his lifetime, and made a new one after both parents had passed away.

He had left the residue previously to two cousins. But in his last will he changed it so they received a lump sum gift. He also gave the same lump sum gift and his house to someone he had been spending a lot of time with. She had a daughter, 7, and he left the residue of the estate to the daughter. He had apparently called the child “the daughter I never had”.

The cousins challenged the will on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.

In dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim, His Honour stated:

It is possible that when William decided to change his testamentary arrangements and make his last will he was bewitched. If so, he was bewitched by Maddie. William will not have been the first man to have lost his heart to a little girl. The thing about little girls is that they may snare a man’s bounty without any conduct that could remotely be thought to be improper…”

Robb J at [185]

Bell v NSW Trustee & Guardian; Estate of William Anthony Hickey [2020] NSWSC 1164