BC SPCA richer by $ 1.4 million after court upheld the will of deceased Vancouver woman
BC SPCA to receive lion’s share of nearly $ 2 million estate settlement after B.C. Supreme Court judge found handwritten note of murky provenance was not sufficient to override the valid will of a Vancouver woman who died almost four years ago.
Eleena Violette Murray was 99 when she died on October 4, 2017.
His will, drawn up in 2013, left a total of $ 440,000 to nine members of his family. A niece, two great-nieces and a great-nephew each received $ 60,000. Five other family members ended up with $ 40,000 each.
The only other party named in the document, the BC SPCA, was left with the remainder of its estate – money left over after liquidation of assets and payment of expenses and distributions.
In Murray’s case, the remainder of the estate stood at around $ 1.4 million for the BC SPCA after the sale of his Collingwood Street home in Kitsilano for $ 1.9 million.
Last year, a group of Murray’s relatives filed a complaint alleging that a handwritten note with “SPCA” and “100,000” written next to it was proof that she intended the protection agency animals receive the much smaller amount of $ 100,000.
The note also purported to increase the amount some family members would receive while removing the inheritances of others.
Written on a piece of yellow notepad paper, the note was found in a safe in Murray’s house next to his will.
In her 62-page decision, Justice Heather MacNaughton listed the many issues with the note, including the fact that it was without a date or title and was neither signed nor witnessed.
Marks made by different people in different inks
While there is no disputing evidence that the note was primarily Murray’s handwriting, MacNaughton also found that it “appears to have marks made by different people because they are in different ink.”
“It is not known who crossed out some of the names on the note,” she wrote. “It is also not known who increased the amount of donations over the amounts in the 2013 will.”
The ruling also points out that if the note were, in fact, valid, 75 percent of the estate would end up with three nephews. Murray had made it clear that she had no intention of leaving anything behind.
“It is difficult to see how Ms. Murray could have known and approved of this result,” MacNaughton wrote.
In his decision, MacNaughton concluded that Murray knew and approved of the residual bequest to the BC SPCA and that his will could not be invalidated by the handwritten note.
“The note does not reflect Ms Murray’s fixed and final intention to amend the 2013 will and is not fully effective as a codicil or amendment,” she said.
In an interesting twist, the BC SPCA attorney informed the court that the note gift of $ 40,000 for Murray’s friend John Basich would be honored.
According to court documents, Basich acted as Murray’s chauffeur in his later years, but was not listed in his 2013 will.