Bequest challenges

Stuff reports:

The Crown decided last year it no longer needed the former ministerial residence. When the Commissioner of Crown Lands offered it to Wellington SPCA and the Vogel Charitable Trust – who were beneficiaries of Jocelyn’s will – a legal battle ensued.

Jocelyn’s grandsons requested a rehearing, and an investigation by an independent lawyer. In an unexpected twist, the independent lawyer advised that neither the Vogels nor the two charities should be given the property.

The parties were this week told Vogel House would instead be sold on the open market, with the proceeds going to the Crown.

Wellington SPCA boss Steve Glassey said it was a “sad outcome” for the two amazing Wellington charities who desperately needed the money to care for animals and the needy people of Lower Hutt. 

It is sad, and if the Vogel grandsons had not contested the original decision, the SPCA would have benefited hugely.

The case comes amid calls for changes to succession laws to better honour will-makers’ last wishes.

Glassey said the case was just one of many in which charities, and the community, lost out. He estimated three-quarters of SPCA bequests were challenged by family members, costing $500,000 to $1 million a year.

“People should be warned that, despite family members saying they won’t contest, soon after the casket is lowered they are clawing at the money,” Glassey said. “Sadly, your word is no longer law.”

He advocated removing the right for independent, adult children to dispute their parents’ – a change Law Commission recommended in 1997.

I’d support that, so long as the person was clearly of sounds mind when making the will. If someone wants to leave their estate to the SPCA they should be able to without challenge.

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