Holmes à Court and the unsigned Will

Robert Holmes à Court, a lawyer, corporate raider, and the first Australian billionaire died following a heart attack in 1990 aged 53. Following his death extensive searches were undertaken but no executed Will was found. His estate was estimated to be worth over $800 million

Although Holmes à Court was described as a corporate raider he planned acquisitions meticulously. His strategy after acquiring significant voting rights in a corporation whose assets appeared to be undervalued would be to break up the conglomerate into its various pieces, which he knew would be worth more than the company as a whole.

It is interesting that as a lawyer who planned his business affairs so carefully he failed to similarly manage the distribution of his estate leaving it to be dispensed under the legislative formula of intestacy.

Under Western Australian law, an intestate estate worth more than $50,000 is divided so that the spouse will get the first $50,000 plus one third of the estate, and the remaining 2/3 of the estate will be divided equally among the children.

His widow Janet came to an arrangement with his children that they sign over their rights to the estate leading to protracted difficulties. It is ironic that if the reports that Holmes à Court had carried an unsigned will in his briefcase for 18 months before his death are true that the execution of this document would have avoided these problems.

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