Church bequest in doubt amid scrap
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 Justice Nicholas Davidson noted it ‘‘may not’’ be all of Matthes’ assets as $300,000 was withdrawn from her account weeks before her death.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
A South Auckland house and a large sum of money are at the centre of a dispute over a will.