Court bat­tle over Joost’s ‘un­signed’ will

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Zelda Venter

THE late Joost van der Westhuizen’s brother and his for­mer at­tor­ney will on De­cem­ber 6 bat­tle it out in court with the Spring­bok rugby leg­end’s es­tranged wife Amor Vit­tone re­gard­ing his last will and tes­ta­ment.

The will has been a bone of con­tention since Joost’s death in Fe­bru­ary.

His brother, Pi­eter van der Westhuizen, and for­mer at­tor­ney Fer­di­nand Hartzen­berg, will ask the Gaut­eng High Court, Pre­to­ria, to de­clare the will of Septem­ber 2, 2015, as his valid tes­ta­ment.

In terms of this will, Pi­eter is ap­pointed as the ex­ecu­tor while Amor, apart from a tele­vi­sion set, in­her­its noth­ing.

Most of Joost’s be­long­ings were be­queathed to his two chil­dren – Jor­dan, 13 and Kylie, 11.

A cod­i­cil at­tached to the will spec­i­fied ex­actly what had to go to whom, which in­cluded all the rugby para­pher­na­lia he was given over the years as a rugby icon.

A le­gal glitch, how­ever, caused the Mas­ter of the High Court not to ac­cept the 2015 will as be­ing le­gal. It was re­jected as Joost did not sign it. It was signed by Hartzen­berg, who acted as a Com­mis­sioner of Oaths. Joost was at that time too weak from mo­tor neu­ron dis­ease to sign it.

The Mas­ter, dur­ing a meet­ing in May this year, in­di­cated that he was of the opinion that Joost’s last will did not fully com­ply with the re­quired for­mal­i­ties as pre­scribed in the Wills Act. He said he had no choice but to re­ject it.

This left the will which Joost and Amor jointly drew up in Au­gust 2009 as his valid tes­ta­ment.

In terms of that will, Amor, to whom he was still mar­ried in com­mu­nity of prop­erty by the time of his death, would mostly in­herit. But Hartzen­berg,in an af­fi­davit, made it clear that Joost’s wishes changed and by 2015 he was adamant that she did not in­herit.

The cou­ple got mar­ried in De­cem­ber 2002 in com­mu­nity of prop­erty, but they be­came es­tranged and had lived apart since Au­gust 2010.

Es­tate

Hartzen­berg said when Joost left their com­mu­nal home in Dain­fern, Joburg North, he took with him only his per­sonal rugby mem­o­ra­bilia, clothes and other per­sonal items.

De­spite di­vorce pro­ceed­ings that were in­sti­tuted, they never got to fi­nalise it be­fore Joost died.

Hartzen­berg said Joost al­ready asked him in 2013 to draw up a new will as he claimed that Amor in­sisted that the en­tire com­mu­nal es­tate was left only to her.

“Joost in­structed me to draft a last will and tes­ta­ment for him with ref­er­ence to his half share of the joint es­tate.”

Hartzen­berg said he met Joost on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and even­tu­ally showed Joost the draft doc­u­ment in Septem­ber 2015. The con­tent was ac­cord­ing to Joost’s wishes.

Hartzen­berg said he signed the doc­u­ment, along with the cod­i­cil, as the Com­mis­sioner of Oaths. This was done in the pres­ence of two wit­nesses. Joost was by then un­able to sign the doc­u­ment him­self ow­ing to his con­di­tion.

It was re­quired in law that some­one else had to sign on his be­half and that Hartzen­berg, as Com­mis­sioner of Oaths, was not al­lowed to sign on his be­half.

Hartzen­berg at the time made it clear that he did this as Joost was un­able to sign him­self.

It only later emerged that this was not strictly in com­pli­ance with the law.

But Hartzen­berg said Joost made his wishes very clear that day – that Amor was not to in­herit his por­tion. He also em­pha­sised that was Joost’s last wish.

He asked the court to make an ex­cep­tion and hon­our the for­mer Bok cap­tain’s wishes.

Amor had through­out de­nied that she wanted to ben­e­fit from Joost’s as­sets and said she only had the best in­ter­ests of her chil­dren at heart.

JOOST VAN DER WESTHUIZEN

AMOR VIT­TONE

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