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Key decisions

  • Warning about fictitious online grants
  • In the Estate of Coonan [2023] ACTSC 320 (Validity of a will)
  • Fahey v Bird (No 2) [2023] VSC 540 and Jordan v Goldspring (No 3) [2024] NSWSC 11 (Contempt)
  • DM v TH [2023] NSWSC 1421 and The Adoption of Emily [2024] NSWSC 87 (Paternity)
  • Re Glendon [2023] QSC 284 (Mental capacity)
  • Savage v Savage [2023] QSC 280 and Case 857879 (concerning Australian Retirement Trust Pty Ltd) (Forfeiture rule)
  • FGH v NOP [2023] WASCA 177 and Papantoniou v Foundouradakis [2023] NSWSC 1374 (Family provisions)

Warning about fictitious online grants

A practitioner was recently provided with a grant of probate purportedly issued by the Supreme Court of NSW. Subsequent enquiries revealed the grant was not authentic. There are concerns that digital grants issued by the newly implemented online grant system can be easily altered, tampered with or entirely fabricated. For instance, the Court’s seal and watermarks can be replicated with a simple copy and paste.

Practitioners are advised to compare the details shown on the PDF grant with any published notices of intention to apply. Proceedings number, deceased’s name, date of death, date of the will (if probate) and the name of the applicant/s are the only particulars that can be independently cross-checked in this way.

Validity of a will

In the Estate of Coonan [2023] ACTSC 320 (McWilliam J), the Court was required to decide the validity of a will made by Anne Coonan dated 6 November 2006. The will was made when Coonan was a patient of a psychiatric ward and awaiting surgery for cancer. It provided in part: ‘There is money I have not yet received being the legitimate copyright fees from my software and associated stationery …This money will be quite substantial since it earnings over many years. … I would like a Foundation to be established and to use the money to help farmers … to restore their land. It can be done as low interest loans. The restoration must include the river, or creek, on their property. After 20 years the money is to be divided between’ five named persons (at [4]).

The will was signed by Coonan and purported to be signed by two Justices of the Peace, but neither attested to having seen Coonan sign the will in their presence before subscribing the will, and neither witness could subsequently be located for the purposes of giving evidence about the execution of the will. The Court concluded the will lacked formal validity.

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