The legal validity of a will revoked via a note filed by a Burnie Public Trustee receptionist has been questioned in the Supreme Court in Hobart.
Justice Shan Tennent heard Westley Christian Henry Melgaard visited the Burnie Public Trustee in February 2009 and requested that his will be revoked.
An office receptionist recorded Mr Melgaard’s request and submitted a note to Mr Melgaard’s file that the revocation had been requested.
When Mr Melgaard returned to the office three days later he was told his records had been updated.
Under the Wills Act 1992 – the legislation current at the time of the revocation – a person seeking to revoke their will was required to sign an official document with at least two witnesses or the revocation would not be legal.
Counsel must now determine whether the standard of proof presented by the note was sufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was Mr Melgaard’s intent to have the will revoked.
If Mr Melgaard’s revocation is found invalid, execution of his estate will be undertaken by the Public Trustee.
In video evidence dated shortly before his death in 2012, Mr Melgaard spoke candidly about how he was still considering the best way to distribute his assets.
He said he didn’t know what to do about his will and recognised that considering whether to devote it to someone was a big question he had not yet answered.
It’s understood Mr Melgaard had limited assets and no children.
Fourteen submissions from individuals and groups including the Launceston City Mission and the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart have been put forward as evidence.