IT WAS the wish of Springbok rugby legend Joost van der Westhuizen that his widow Amor Vittone inherited only a television set from his estate.
This is according to his brother Pieter van der Westhuizen after the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday declared that the will Joost had drawn up on September 2, 2015, was valid. He did not sign it at the time as he was too ill from motor neuron disease.
Vittone was of the opinion that despite this debilitating disease, Joost was still able to sign a document or at least make a mark on it. She said that when he went for dinner at her house, he could still manage to hold a fork. She questioned his mental capability at the time to draw up a will and vigorously opposed an application by Pieter and lawyer Ferdinand Hartzenberg. The lawyer had turned to court to have the will Joost had had drawn up in 2015 to be declared his last wish.
The problem with this will was that it was not signed by Joost, but by Hartzenberg, who acted as commissioner of oaths. The Master of the High Court rejected this will, and said it was not legal as it should not have been signed by Hartzenberg.
The will had been a bone of contention since Joost’s death on February 6 last year, at the age of 45. He was a celebrated South African rugby player who made 89 appearances in Test matches for the national team, scoring 38 tries. He mostly played as a scrumhalf and participated in three Rugby World Cup tournaments, most notably in the 1995 tournament which was won by South Africa on home soil.
But Judge Hans Fabricius said he had no doubt the will was valid and Joost's last wish. He rejected Vittone’s blanket denials that Joost was mentally not able to give instructions for the latest will. He said her defence - simply denying he was up to giving instructions - was “scandalous”.
While Vittone was not at court yesterday, the judge said it was desirable that he said as little as possible about her answers in her affidavit because of “issues of respect and compassion”.
The judge said one would have expected that Vittone, who was married to Joost and had children with him, to have given reasons as to why she claimed he was not able to give instructions for the drafting of his new will. Instead she simply said he was not up to it, without giving reasons.
The judge said that given the background leading up to Joost having this last will drawn up, it was clear it was his instructions and wishes. He said Vittone knew that his illness had worsened and the effect it had on him.
The judge said it was thus strange that Vittone was so involved in his life, yet she could not motivate to the court why she thought he was not up to having this will drawn up. He said it was a “strange way to treat someone you once loved and had children with”.
In ruling the 2015 will as valid, the judge said: “He knew what he wanted and why.”
At the start of yesterday’s proceedings, the judge said he was not interested in all the gossip (surrounding the case) and that he only looked at the facts and the law.
The court did order Vittone to foot the legal bill, but not on a punitive scale. Judge Fabricius was told the family did not want to pursue a punitive cost order against her. Joost's belongings were bequeathed to his two children - Jordan, 13, and Kylie, 11 - and his half interest of the Dainfern home in which Vittone and the children lived, will go into trust with the J9 Foundation. The children are the sole beneficiaries. The other half of the property is registered in Vittone’s name. She was awarded the TV in terms of a clause in the will.
Pieter said it was all about Joost’s children. “We did not win here. The children did. It's their money. We don’t benefit as a family. We are just happy Joost's wishes were honoured in the end.”