Reg Grundy died in Bermuda (his place of domicile) on 6 May 2016, aged 93 years, leaving a will dated 21 January 2011 and sufficient property in NSW to ground the jurisdiction of the Court to admit the will to probate.
In 2015, Reg’s wealth was estimated as being $809 million, a figure largely stemming from the $320 million sale of Grundy’s company to Pearson Television in 1995.
Reg had one a daughter from his first marriage. She changed her name by deed poll in 2000, to her present name, Viola La Valette. She has been known as Robin Grundy.
There was a degree of estrangement between Reg and Viola, which he referred to in his autobiography
“The loss of my daughter is the greatest heartbreak in my life. I have lost a daughter and gained a wife who is the light of my life. If only the three of us could have lived happily ever after.”
Joy Chambers-Grundy is Reg’s widow, executor and, having survived him by 30 days, takes “the remainder” (the residue) of his estate after provision of a lifetime annuity of $US250000 granted in favour of Viola and payment of his just debts, funeral and testamentary expenses.
The limited provision made for his daughter in his will may be due to his disappointment with Viola’s treatment of him and his belief that she was unreliable in her handling of property and in need of protection.
In April 2017 Viola applied, for a grant of family provision relief in respect of the estate, or notional estate, of the deceased.
Generally speaking a Family Provision Claim is made in a jurisdiction where the deceased lived at the date of their death, or owned assets in that jurisdiction, or both.
In most Jurisdictions legislation governs who can bring a claim against a persons estate. Generally speaking this is:
- The deceased’s spouse, a person living in a de facto relationship with the deceased at the time of death, a person living in a close personal relationship (such as a volunteer carer) with the deceased when the deceased died;
- The deceased’s child;
- The deceased’s former spouse;
- A person who was:
- Dependent (wholly or partly) on the deceased at a particular time (this may include a former de facto spouse, parent, sibling, or step-child; and
- A grandchild of the deceased, or a member of the household of the deceased;
- believe they have been left without adequate provision for the proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.
The Court takes a number of factors into account: the applicant’s financial position, relationship with the deceased, the size of the estate and the deceased’s relationship with other persons who are eligible to make a claim.
Adequate provision is unique and therefore difficult to define.
The Court considers a broad range of factors, as the definition of adequate provision is unique to each circumstance brought before the court.
Joy was reticent to provide Viola with a copy of her father’s will claiming that Reg had died without assets. Correspondence from the estates solicitors stated;
“Dr Grundy died without any assets in his sole name, so that his estate owned no assets upon death. Therefore, Dr Grundy‘s Last Will will not be submitted for probate in the Supreme Court of Bermuda.”
In April 2017 Viola’s solicitors requested that Joy provide them with the information identified in that paragraph, they declined the request responding:
“As ought to have been clear from our letter of 12 April 2017:
(a) Dr Grundy died domiciled in Bermuda and left no estate whether in Bermuda or elsewhere;
(b) the law of New South Wales is irrelevant and the Courts of New South Wales have no jurisdiction;
(c) we do not now have, and nor will we be seeking, any instructions to accept service of any misconceived proceedings that your client should care to issue in New South Wales.
Viola’s solicitors noted the Bermuda lawyers’ statement and invited them to address the question of notional estate, both generally and by specific reference to particular items of property located in New South Wales, which they contend constitutes the notional estate.
Notional estate orders are orders issued by the Court which are intended to make available for family provision orders assets that are no longer part of the estate of a deceased person as they have been distributed either before or after the deceased’s death (either with or without the intention of defeating applications for family provision).
Notional estate provisions brought to the forefront the distinction of ‘estate versus notional estate’ that had been implicit in the decisions using the legislation prior to the introduction of the Family Provision Act 1982(NSW). The legislation ensures that ‘estate’ and ‘notional estate’ were different. Things subject to contracts (like mutual wills) were not within the definition of ‘estate’. To bring such property within the legislation required the application of complex procedures and definitions of ‘notional estate’. This requires a particular kind of transaction, an absence of relevant consideration, a defined time frame in which the transaction took effect and a range of other matters to be considered before property can be designated as notional estate and made the subject of an order for family provision under the Act.
Joy submitted that if the case were hashed out in open court, it would cause embarrassment, resentment and prurient media attention, which her husband never wanted and specifically avoided. Similarly the exact size of the estate shouldn’t be of relevance to the case.
However the court disagreed, and gave Viola leave to determine the wealth of her father included granting access to her father’s will and NSW properties for the purposes of valuing them.
The court also ordered he news organisation that published a rich list that estimated Reg’s wealth at $809 million release the documents that the calculation was based on to Viola. Joy disputes this figure claiming the estate had a net value of “not less than about $214 million”