June 9, 2009 Leave a comment
I just read this article on news.com.au about the courts deciding what they think someone was thinking after they had died.
Rather then take the testimony of the man’s doctor the court took the word of a shrink who had never met him but had read a letter he wrote and from that decided he was not in his right mind. Wrong just so so wrong that when he is not here to defend himself the courts overrule him.
THE family of a “renowned miser” who cut them out of his $2.7 million will are set to inherit the lot after winning a posthumous court fight for the money.
Eccentric Victorian farmer Daniel Duggan went without hot water, a telephone and other basics while amassing his fortune, eventually dying three years ago at 93, childless and unmarried.
He had originally willed property worth $160,000 to his niece; $72,000 in investments to his nephew; $500 to a cousin; and the rest to his “great niece” and “great nephews”.
But after becoming increasingly estranged from his family – even blaming them for putting him in a nursing home – Mr Duggan wrote up a new will in 2004 that left almost every cent to charity.
In the Victorian Supreme Court last week Justice Philip Mandie ruled that Mr Duggan lacked the mental capacity to legally change his will and quashed the Bendigo man’s charitable instructions.
“He (Mr Duggan) was a renowned miser who would spend the absolute minimum on or for himself and he assiduously avoided making any donations to charity or giving any pecuniary assistance to anyone else,” Justice Mandie said.
“The main interests of (Mr Duggan) were farming, local community gossip and football.
“He appeared uncomfortable with the company of women. He expressed a dislike of ‘city people’ and a disdain for education.
“I consider that it is likely that he had a psychiatric illness or paranoid disorder of some kind that directly bore upon the making of the will.”
Earlier, the court heard testimony from Romano De Nardo, a GP who examined Mr Duggan shortly before the will was drawn up, saying that he did not suffer from any mental condition.
But Justice Mandie said evidence from renowned psychologist Nicholas Ingram, who had not met Mr Duggan, proved that the elderly man’s confusion and paranoia could be seen in letters sent to his niece in 2004:
“I found Dr Ingram’s evidence generally convincing but, in particular, I found Dr Ingram’s evidence persuasive that the 2004 letters were evidence of ‘a mind that’s broken down’ and ‘strong evidence’ of ‘a disintegrated mind’.”
According to evidence from family members and friends, Mr Duggan had increasingly become critical of his niece and nephew in the years leading up to his last will.
He had sent “almost indecipherable” letters to his niece, accusing relatives of stealing his drivers licence and bankbook.
The overturned will – shunning his family – had left: $1.5 million to 30 charities; $122,000 to relatives; $50,000 to a nursing home; and the rest to be used to set up a scholarship scheme for agriculture students.