Son wins battle with brother for mum’s estate
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.