2 April 2020

It’s Official: Don’t Go to the Bottle-o For a New Will

Charlie Young
Charlie Young Litigation Lawyer

The latest case of an unusual “Will” involves that unheralded defender against breakages; the humble beer carton.

Lindsay Olive had made a Will in which he divided his $1 million estate between children, step-children and step-grandchildren.

However, in 2019 Mr Olive told friends that he wanted to change his Will so that it provides for his friends and leave his children and step-children out.

Unfortunately, Mr Olive passed away suddenly in November 2019 aged 69, before making that new Will.

The executor discovered various writings that Mr Olive had made on a beer carton, as well as on a beer coaster and a letter. The handwritten scrawl comprised of names, numbers and other notations. There were ticks next to some names, comments such as “Has enough” and “Doesn’t deserve it” besides others.

According to Mr Olive’s close friend, it was the norm for him to write notes on any old bits of paper while drinking beer and listening to 4KQ in that area under his house which he called his “office”.

The executor took the step of asking the Supreme Court to decide whether the beer carton, coaster or letter should be recognised as Mr Olive’s final Will, instead of the 2019 Will.

Mr Olive’s only daughter opposed any of those documents being recognised as his final Will.

Ultimately, the Court rejected the beer carton, coaster and letter as being the last Will. The 2019 Will applied.

On considering this case, I cannot help thinking these two questions:

  1. What was Mr Olive’s preferred beer?
  2. Did the executor really need to seek the Court’s decision on the validity of the beer carton, etc?

The answer to the first question is anyone’s guess so let’s look at the second question.

It is not uncommon for executors to locate notes, or even an unsigned Will, containing statements as to how the deceased may have wanted his or her estate to be administered.

However, for such documents (‘informal’ Wills) to have any prospect of being upheld by a court, there needs to be strong evidence demonstrating that the deceased intended that particular document to be operative.

If that evidence does not exist, then a determination from a Judge is not usually required.

Here, there may have been evidence suggesting that the beer carton was intended to be operative. We do not know.

In any event, it’s a situation which could have been easily avoided a couple of ways: by him having ‘amended’ the beer carton (or coaster or letter) so as to make it operative, or by having a formal Will prepared. While a beer carton Will would have been admirable in this author’s eyes, the latter is usually the safer option.





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