Queensland

Charities in limbo for three years over $1.9 million estate

The $1.9 million estate of a Cairns businessman who died in 2013 left some of his money to charities, but confusion over beneficiaries has led to Supreme Court action to sort out the mess.

Lance Corporal Henry (Harry) Fitzgerald left gifts in his will to a variety of North Queensland charities but failed to name several of them correctly.

A Cairns businessman died two years ago leaving an estate valued at $1.9 million.
A Cairns businessman died two years ago leaving an estate valued at $1.9 million. Photo: Louie Douvis

Mr Fitzgerald, who passed away at the age of 95 after a short illness, left gifts in his estate to the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard, The Freemasons, The Anglican Church, The Salvation Army and The Uniting Church for the purposes of Blue Care operating in Cairns.

He also used the name he knew his goddaughter by, rather than her legal married name.

Confusion arose when Mr Fitzgerald's last will of May 2011 identified beneficiaries that were either inaccurately described or did not exist at the time of his death.

In one section of his will he left a gift to "The Roman Catholic Trust Corporation for the Diocese of Cairns to be utilised by that religious body for the charitable purposes of the Bethlehem Home for the Aged ….".

This correctly named the corporate entity, however the facility was demolished in 2006 and the land sold to Mercy Health and Aged Care Inc, which operates a new facility on the site.

The Catholic church does not run an aged care facility in the area any more, instead providing in-home care services.

Justice James Henry, who oversaw the matter in the Supreme Court, said in a judgment that he could not form a concluded view on Mr Fitzgerald's intentions for this bequest.

Mr Fitzgerald's executor, Yvonne Nofz, was granted leave to make further application to the court for the distribution of the gift previously allocated to the Catholic Church.

Want more stories like this? Follow our Facebook feed.

2 comments