Cane farmer's Thai widow given family home, $50k
SOMETIMES a loss in court can be just as good as a win.
That appears to have been the case for the Thai wife of a successful Bundaberg cane farmer, who has this month walked away from the Supreme Court of Queensland with $50,000 and a family house after a judge dismissed her claims.
Justice Debra Mullins ruled that changes Frank Anthony Sammut made just days before his death were valid, rejecting his now widow's argument he lacked testamentary capacity at the time due to his illness.
The changes were made by Mr Sammut who at the time felt he had been tricked by the woman he married just a few months before.
However, in a complex legal ruling, Justice Debra Mullins ordered a change to the will to ensure Apinyatree Sammut recieved the Norville family property as well as $50,000.
In Mr Sammut's earlier will, she was set to receive a different house and only $30,000.
Mr Sammut, who had acquired a portfolio of properties, died on February 27, 2017, at the age of 74 from respiratory failure and end stage chronic obstructive airway disease.
He made a will four days earlier which effectively changed what was left to his 43-year-old Thai wife, who he met in October 2012.
The couple married in Thailand in July 2015 before an official wedding in Australia in late November 2016.
In the earlier will, Mrs Sammut was given a nearby duplex building at McNeilly St, $30,000 and the household furniture, but not the family home at Kensington St where she lived with Mr Sammut.
The court head Mr Sammut's change of heart came from how he viewed her actions, including use of his credit while he was in a coma shortly before his death.
Before he went into the coma, the pair had discussed a range of household costs that Mr Sammut wanted his wife to cover while he was ill in hospital.
The court heard she'd taken $1000 a day out of the account, an action described as "foolishness" by the court which acknowledged she may have felt vulnerable with her husband dying and concerns about how she would meet her expenses.
All up she took $3900. However, the court heard Mr Sammut told a friend of the family he thought it was about $40,000.
"The issue that was a focus was whether Mr Sammut when he made the later will was under a delusion that the defendant had stolen lots of money from his accounts," Justice Mullins said.
"To someone like Mr Sammut who had exercised such tight control over his finances, the withdrawal of $3900 over three days was 'lots of money'.
"Mr Sammut's concern about the defendant's conduct in withdrawing from his accounts the amount of $3900 over three days and the consequences if that conduct had continued was not a delusion in the relevant sense of being a 'fixed and incorrigible flash belief'.
Mr Sammut was also concerned by the length of time it took his wife to fulfil his requests to bring things from the family to his hospital bedside.
The court heard Mrs Sammut's relationship with her husband's daughters deteriorated during the latter stages of his life.
But the court found in favour of the widow with regards to family provision.
"On the basis that the defendant was Mr Sammut's widow and had a legitimate expectation of appropriate maintenance from him upon his death for her to continue to live in Australia, and having regard to both her circumstances and the size of Mr Sammut's estate, a bequest of $50,000 falls short of being a proper provision for the defendant," Justice Mullins said.