Family’s fury after elderly aunt leaves entire 8million estate to next-door neighbour to thank her for buying her bread and milkWidow Betty Harris left entire estate to neighbour as a 'thank you gift'Will caused a bitter legal dispute as Mrs Harris' family challenged in courtMrs Harris complained that her relatives 'all want their bit of money'
16:20 GMT, 28 November 2012
It is often said that a small act of daily kindness goes a long way. But one lucky Australian could not have expected that her good deeds would land her a multi-million dollar cheque.
The next-door neighbour, who helped an elderly widow with her daily chores, was left with a ‘thank you’ gift of eight million pounds.
Sydney widow Betty Harris, who died at
the age of 95, left her entire estate, worth $12.5 million (8.18
million) to her neighbour Beatrice Gray.
Appreciative: Betty Harris died aged 95 in 2009 and chose to leave her Sydney estate worth $12.5 million (8.18 million) to her neighbour Beatrice Gray, above, instead of her family
Mrs Gray showed kindness to Mrs Harris in
her later years in the wealthy harbourside suburb of Point Piper, buying her milk and bread and taking out her rubbish.
Mrs Gray told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today that she was ‘extremely grateful to Betty Harris,’ but declined to comment further.
But Mrs Harris, widow of Keith Harris, a former horse breeder, spoke out strongly before her death against her relatives saying she wanted to leave her money to Mrs Gray and her husband because they were not expecting it and she trusted them.
‘The Grays would be surprised, while my family are waiting for me to die,’ she said. ‘I am determined that my relatives, after what they have put me through, will not get one cent.’
After the widow’s death a bitter legal battle erupted with Mrs Harris’ s niece challenging the gift in the New South Wales Supreme Court.
The niece, Caralie Hart, claimed that a will leaving the estate to Mrs Gray, was invalid because Mrs Harris was deluded at the time.
During one court hearing it was
revealed that Mrs Harris had no children and was largely estranged from
her nieces and nephews. She told hospital staff in 2005 that she had not
spoken to them for 13 years.
after changing her will in favour of Mrs Gray, Mrs Harris complained
that her niece and nephews ‘all want their bit of money.’
Inherited: Betty Harris left her multi-million dollar house in Point Piper, above, to her Mrs Gray
Exclusive: Point Piper, one of Australia's most expensive suburbs, pictured, where Mrs Gray and Harris were neighbours
The court was told that she complained her nephews were ‘a pretty pathetic lot’ and called another niece, Anne Nickolls , a bitch.
Justice Richard White, ruling today that Mrs Gray – a wealthy Sydney University academic and barrister – was entitled to the estate, said there was no doubt that Mrs Harris had ‘some degree of cognitive impairment’ but she was still capable of signing a will.
An earlier will, written in 1996, had left the entire estate to niece Mrs Hart, but then Mrs Harris revoked it after learning Mrs Hart wanted to put her in a nursing home and appoint a legal guardian to take control of her finances.
Mrs Harris lost control of her money through a number of legal moves, resulting in her borrowing money from Mrs Gray.
Mrs Gray and her husband helped Mrs Harris pay her bills, organise her car registration, replace light bulbs and wheel out her recycling bin.
The neighbours also checked on Mrs Harris’s house to ensure she had not been robbed.
Mrs Harris’s late husband Keith was not without controversy.
Although he had made his fortune making radios and televisions, he was a former vice chairman of the Sydney Turf Club and a horse breeder.
In 1987 he was jailed for conspiracy to bribe the NSW Corrective Services Minister, Rex Jackson, over a prisoners’ early release, a court was told.