‘Dirty tricks’ in family will dispute
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Childless multi-millionaire Olga Cronje left her fortune to her three nephews when she died about six years ago.
But soon Brian, Garry and John Kelly, all of whom are involved in professional hunting, were at each other’s throats in a battle over the will ,which ended in a full-scale legal war in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
It was litigation that “signals a loss far greater than the loss of a bigger slice of the estate”, Judge Dhaya Pillay said in her recent judgment on the matter.
“Loss of love and mutual respect among the members of the Kelly family is hardly gratitude to the testatrix (Cronje), for her generosity.
“The parties should reflect on this before perpetuating their animosity through further litigation.”
Cronje, who was born into the Sherwell family, married very late in life. She never had children and inherited her money - said to be “many millions of rands” - from her own family.
She died in an old-age home in her late 80s.
According to papers before the court, she had always said that she would leave her money to her sister’s three sons, who would benefit equally. This was reflected in her first will, but in her second and final will it was reflected that Brian’s share had also to be divided between his brothers’ children.
Brian alleged this was a mistake which nobody picked up, including Cronje when she signed it.
But Garry and John Kelly said it was no mistake. They said the redrafting of the will was precipitated by Brian’s financial difficulties, a loan he had taken from Cronje which he did not repay and that he had lived rent-free off her.
Cronje’s stepson, Willem Cronje, who assisted with the drafting of the final will, said he had made her intention clear that each of her nephews were to receive a one-third share exclusively and that they knew this.
“They knew that it was not the intention that they or their children would benefit in any way from Brian’s share whilst Brian (and his wife Louise) survived,” he said.
The judge said Garry and John could not refute that Brian had had a closer relationship with Cronje than they had.
And she accused them of dirty tricks, making bald allegations and resorting to “hearsay, disparagement and sheer gossip” in an attempt to discredit the other side.
She ruled that Cronje had, in fact, meant Brian to receive one third and rectified the will to read as such.
She ordered the costs of the litigation to be paid by Garry and John Kelly. - The Mercury