Church be­quest in doubt amid scrap

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - MANDY TE

A makeshift will pre­pared for an Auck­land woman by the Seven­thDay Ad­ven­tist Church has been re­jected by a High Court judge. Her fam­ily’s squab­ble over her as­sets went be­fore a judge af­ter Pepe Pase­taria Matthes, who died in Jan­uary 2017, failed to in­clude her adopted chil­dren in a doc­u­ment drawn up by the church in 2015. The Per­sonal Pro­file Doc­u­ment (PPD) left $180,000 and a home in South Auck­land mostly to the Church. Jus­tice Ni­cholas David­son noted it ‘‘may not’’ be all of Matthes’ as­sets as $300,000 was with­drawn from her ac­count weeks be­fore her death. David­son said there was ‘‘con­sid­er­able con­cern’’ over its where­abouts ‘‘given an ap­par­ent link to a (pos­si­ble) cryp­tocur­rency called ‘‘OneCoin’’. ‘‘Re­cov­ery of the $300,000 by the es­tate does not look at all promis­ing.’’ Matthes legally adopted Pepe, Hazel and a third child, Tau­mau; and in­for­mally adopted Faa­mau Matthes, also known as But­tons, through the Maori tra­di­tion of whangai. Matthes’ brother, Tipi Kato, ar­gued the PPD should be con­sid­ered her valid will, and asked the court to set aside Pepe and Hazel – who were ap­pointed as ad­min­is­tra­tors sub­se­quent to her death – and have him ap­pointed as ex­ecu­tor. Kato claimed the adop­tions were so the chil­dren could live in New Zealand and the doc­u­ment in­di­cated she no longer had a re­la­tion­ship with them. Pas­tor Ian Royce from the Aus­tralian Union Con­fer­ence of the Sev­enth-day Ad­ven­tist Church pre­pared PPDs for 100 peo­ple in New Zealand, in­clud­ing Matthes. It was in­tended to be an in­terim mea­sure un­til an of­fi­cial will was pre­pared. The church typ­i­cally ad­vised par­ents on the re­quire­ment of pro­vid­ing for their chil­dren and the pos­si­bil­ity of them mak­ing a claim if left out, but it ap­peared to the pas­tor the re­la­tion­ship was dis­tant and they wouldn’t ex­pect an inheritance. ‘‘The church does not oth­er­wise en­cour­age peo­ple to make large be­quests to the church where there are chil­dren,’’ he told the court. Matthes be­queathed her es­tate to the church’s ac­tiv­i­ties in New Zealand and Samoa, and pledged some to her nieces and neph­ews. She never re­sponded to three re­minder let­ters from the church to for­malise the will. In de­clin­ing to val­i­date the PPD, Jus­tice David­son said there was very real doubt it was what she in­tended. Or­der­ing full ad­min­is­tra­tion to a solic­i­tor, the rul­ing noted the prospect of claims be­ing made against the es­tate, and that the prop­erty was al­ready the sub­ject of a ten­ancy dis­pute be­tween Hazel and Pepe, and the peo­ple liv­ing with Matthes at the time of her death. Mean­while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der way into the miss­ing $300,000. Ac­cord­ing to the judge­ment, But­tons knew the ‘‘cir­cum­stances’’ of its with­drawal.

Re­cov­ery of the $300,000 by the es­tate does not look at all promis­ing. Jus­tice Ni­cholas David­son

DAVID WHITE/STUFF

A South Auck­land house and a large sum of money are at the cen­tre of a dis­pute over a will.

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