Son wins bat­tle with brother for mum’s es­tate

Wairarapa News - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA DOONEY AND PIERS FULLER

Steven Courteney was the favourite son, but his mother’s frail mind lead her to be­lieve he was the en­emy.

Joan Courteney left noth­ing of her $500,000 Master­ton es­tate to Steven in her will, snub­bing him in favour of her other son, Stu­art - es­tranged due to the fact he was gay.

Steven and his daugh­ter, Klau­dia, have won a fight to con­test the will, that ended in the High Court.

A just-re­leased de­ci­sion has revealed the court awarded Steven the es­tate and as­sets, and or­dered Stu­art to meet the $120,000 he racked up in le­gal fees de­fend­ing the will.

The de­ci­sion handed down from the High Court ex­plains that the two sons of Joan and her late hus­band, Ron Courteney, had had very dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ships with their par­ents.

After they were raised in Eng­land, Steven em­i­grated to New Zealand in the mid-1990s with his wife and daugh­ter.

His par­ents fol­lowed soon after.

Steven spon­sored them, and gifted them some land so they could sub­di­vide and build a home to re­tire in next door to his own fam­ily’s home in Master­ton.

Mean­while Stu­art was es­tranged from his par­ents and be­tween the late 1980s and 2010 he lived in Ger­many.

In 2008 Steven started to re­alise ‘‘things might not be quite right’’ with his mother’s men­tal state.

In April 2010, he flew home from work in Malaysia to look after his fa­ther, who had suf­fered bouts of delir­ium while vis­it­ing Stu­art in Ger­many in 2009.

Steven tried to look after his ail­ing fa­ther, but his mother thought he was be­ing de­lib­er­ately abu­sive to­wards him.

As Judge He­len Cull’s de­ci­sion says Joan be­came sure Steven was her en­emy, and was act­ing ag­gres­sively to­wards her hus­band Ron.

A will writ­ten in 2002 left Ron and Joan Courteney’s home in Master­ton to Steven, while as­sets held over­seas were to be left to Stu­art.

But in 2011, five weeks be­fore Ron died, Joan swapped Steven’s name out of her will in favour of Stu­art.

Ear­lier in 2011, Joan had failed a mini-men­tal state ex­am­i­na­tion, and a re­fer­ral to a geron­tol­o­gist was never fol­lowed up.

She died nearly a year later, and changes she’d made to her will in 2011 stood.

Ev­i­dence filed by Steven and his fam­ily showed the close re­la­tion­ship he and his par­ents had had, sat­is­fy­ing the court it was a lov­ing one, un­til Joan’s men­tal state be­gan to de­cline.

Judge Cull ruled Joan’s ex­clu­sion of Steven was wrong­ful, as her rea­sons for do­ing so were ‘‘clouded by an ir­ra­tional per­cep­tion of Steven’s ac­tions’’.

Steven was awarded the es­tate’s New Zealand as­sets, and any chat­tels that re­mained at his par­ents’ old prop­erty in Master­ton.

The ten­ants of the ru­ral prop­erty in ques­tion five kilo­me­tres west of Master­ton said Steven Courteney was cur­rently over­seas in Kuala Lumpur and un­avail­able for com­ment.

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