The case of the peculiar will

The case of the peculiar will. Picture: File

The case of the peculiar will. Picture: File

Published Dec 3, 2023


A curious case of a will that disinherited the close friends and relatives of the deceased and bequeathed everything to a neighbour who claimed she had taken care of the man, served before the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg.

The will revoked all previous wills and appointed the neighbour as executor.

A close friend of the deceased, Alfred Brandl, turned to court to have the will declared a forgery.

The court was told that none of Brandl’s family members or close friends of the deceased knew the neighbour. According to them, the deceased had been mostly healthy over the years and had not needed taking care of.

Klaus Obst, a close friend of Brandl’s, asked the court to have a closer look at the will and testament of Brandl, dated January 20, 2021.

Obst said that in his opinion, it was forged.

Obst said he had known Brandl for 40 years. He and the deceased had visited each other often; at least three to four times a week. By virtue of their close relationship, Brandl had regularly confided in him.

Obst said Brandl had been single and had lived alone in Yeoville.

Due to their close relationship, Obst was aware that his friend had accumulated moveable property and had investments with two banks.

To his knowledge, the deceased had had a single living relative, who resided permanently in Austria.

Obst said Brandle had handed him a copy of the 2015 will for safe-keeping.

The neighbour disputed the veracity of the 2015 will. However, no evidential basis was laid for such dispute, other than the averment that the court should reject it because it was a copy and no original was found.

Obst said that when he had visited the deceased’s residence immediately after his death, he had found it ransacked and items stolen. He had been unable to locate the original will.

The neighbour sought to cast doubt on that, contending that Obst had failed to report that to the police. However, Obst supplied the court with the case number as proof that he had reported the matter.

Two witnesses to the 2015 will have issued sworn affidavits in the proceedings, confirming that they were witness to the signing of the 2015 will by the deceased in their presence, which was further confirmed by a police stamp and signature. An expert also confirmed the signature of the deceased on the 2015 will.

Confronted with the facts, the neighbour raised only technical objections to the 2015 will. She said the signature of one of the witnesses to the will should be rejected, as it was only an initial rather than a full signature.

Under the 2015 will, the deceased bequeathed, in specified percentages, all his assets to certain of his friends, including Obst, as well as his nephew.

The contested will disinherited the deceased’s only known relatives as well as his close friends.

The neighbour explained that she had known Brandl for 25 years and had taken care of him. Later, she said she had known him for 16 years. Her place of residence was also recorded as Soweto, and not Yeoville, where Brandl had lived.

Apart from the unexplained inconsistencies, Obst said that neither he nor Brandl had known the woman.

He said that the deceased had been in reasonable health and had not had or needed assistance until his sudden illness and death.

The neighbour handed a letter to court from the municipal councillor, in which it was said Brandl had never married and had no children and that the neighbour had known him for 25 years.

The letter, which the judge described as peculiar, was dated the day after the death.

The final nail in the coffin was the signature on the contested will.

Acting Judge AD Stein said that to the untrained eye, it differed markedly from all other known signatures of the deceased.

The neighbour explained: “The deceased disclosed to me the fraudulent activities of the Applicant (Obst) and that is why he kept on changing his signatures. The deceased did not have one signature during his lifetime because the Applicant had tried so many times to defraud him of his monies.”

A handwriting expert confirmed the signature is not genuine.

The judge declared the 2021 will a forgery.

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