Case study: Suspicious signature complicates will probate

Date: May 16, 2016

The Supreme Court finding in probate dispute over the estate of Ákos Balazs Melegh [NSWSC 584] can be used as a case study illustrating the importance of a having a clear will probate. 

The settlement of the deceased's estate was complicated by opportunistic people who claimed to have been named in a will. Following a legal action by those who truly cared for the deceased, the defendants dropped their 'suspicious' claim – but only after a costly handwriting expert provided his expertise. It all could have been prevented had a will been drafted up and signed by reliable legal experts.

How did a tragic death become a sneaky claim? 

The situation began when the deceased died suddenly in a motorcycle accident in September 2013. The deceased was not married and had no children and his closest surviving relatives were still residents of his native Hungary.

The deceased was entitled to a death benefit under the Host PLUS Superannuation Fund. The death benefit payable upon his death from that superannuation fund was around $230,000.
The defendants sought commission of the deceased's estate under the Probate and Administration Act 1898. A printed, signed form dated 25 May 2013 purported to be the deceased's final will. The will gave 75 per cent of the deceased's estate to one Csilla Melegh.

The defendants initially supported the will but then propounded a later instrument as the last Will of the deceased, one bearing the date 13 July 2013, and which also purported to be signed by the deceased as his final Will. This second will purported to appoint the defendants as executors and purportedly gave the deceased's estate to to a third defendant. This woman and other defendants presented in court no evidence that which could uphold the claim that the third defendant was, as claimed, the deceased's de facto partner.

An expert steps in to uphold justice

Handwriting expert evidence presented to the court showed the signature on two wills held up by the defendants was unlikely to be that of the deceased. Furthermore, the wills had an unreliable signature applied to a printed form of unknown origin. Witnesses who attested to the reliability of the will were then judged as having little connection to the deceased.
Most glaringly of all, the Supreme Court judgment found that the defendants "were unknown to the deceased at any time before his death."

Things we can learn from this case.

The deceased was of Hungarian origin, and communication difficulties affected the deceased leaving an indisputable will. Furthermore, the extent of who the deceased considered family and loved ones was left unclear because his will was poor. The defendants finally abandoned their application for probate of the deceased's estate, but the case was costly and upsetting for those who truly cared for the deceased.Gerard Malouf and Partners want your will to be clear an unassailable. Ask them for help today. 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.