Queensland Court of Appeal overturns $4m inheritance decision
Queensland Court of Appeal overturns $4m inheritance decision

Court slashes stepdaughter’s $4m inheritance

AN APPEAL court has overturned a decision to gift a woman $4 million in the will of her wealthy Queensland ­stepmother, who is still alive and has assets worth almost $100 million.

British woman Michelle Russell, 52, will now be left only $1 million in her stepmother's will.

The woman's grandchildren will get $5 million, while Ms Russell's own brother and her two stepbrothers will get $5 million each and share the rest of the multimillion-dollar estate.

The 68-year-old stepmother has lost the mental capacity to make her own will and solicitor Craig Spink last year applied to the Supreme Court for a statutory will to be made on her behalf.

In her 2014 will, made before she developed dementia, the stepmother gifted Ms Russell, her late husband Tony's daughter from his first marriage, only $1 million.

Mr Spink told the court the stepmother later told him that she wanted the legacy to Ms Russell to remain the same under a new will.

The stepmother and her husband made their millions developing two regional Queensland over-50s' estates and in commercial property development.

In February, Supreme Court Justice Soraya Ryan decided Ms Russell should be gifted $4 million under the proposed new will.

The judge had been told neither Ms Russell's late father, who had left her and her brother and children in the UK, nor the stepmother had been close to Ms Russell.

Her father believed she would be happy to receive $1 million, as she would inherit his mother's English house, where she lived rent-free.

However, Justice Ryan was told Ms Russell was not happy to get only the $1 million and was likely to bring a family provision application to get significantly more.

The judge decided that if the stepmother knew that, she would want to avoid it, by ­increasing her stepdaughter's provision.

Justice Ryan decided $4 million would allow Ms Russell to buy a very comfortable home and still have investment income.

Mr Spink appealed, and on April 11, three Queensland Court of Appeal judges unanimously set aside the judge's order regarding the $4 million bequest.

Justice Robert Gotterson said there was no evidence that the stepmother would have made a will containing a $4 million gift to Ms Russell.

The court ordered the proposed statutory will be made.