Dispute over plane crash victims’ estate

A SUPREME Court judge has been forced to step in and resolve a family dispute between relatives of John and Carol Dawson, who died in a plane crash between Monto and Caloundra.

They were among six people in the 1934 plane that was flying in thick cloud and crashed into the side of a hill about 15km west of Imbil in October 2012.

It could not be established whether Mr or Mrs Dawson died first, which has presented legal problems in determining their wills.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, Court of Appeal judge Philip Morrison said Mr Dawson's will indicated everything would be left to his wife. But if she died first, everything would be split with 50% going to his sister-in-law Margaret Guillesser, 25% to his brother and 25% to nieces and nephews.

But his mother, Ellen Donald, claimed she was entitled to the entire estate under a section of the law that says that if it can't be ascertained who died first, the younger person should be deemed to survive the older by one day.

This means that Mrs Dawson would legally have survived her husband for one day as she was six months younger.

Mrs Donald also argued that another section of the law stated beneficiaries must live for 30 days beyond the death of the person who made the will.

This means that Mrs Dawson, being the first beneficiary in her husband's will, did not survive for 30 days after his death and therefore was legally deemed to have died before him.

A previous judge found that Mrs Guillesser should administer the estate but Mrs Donald challenged this.

Adding more confusion to the situation, Mrs Guillesser died shortly before the appeal and orders were made for her husband, Patrick, to act as administrator.

In the judgment, Justice Morrison said it did not depend on whether Mrs Dawson died before or after Mr Dawson.

"The application to substitute Mr Guillesser as administrator was necessary but for no reason to do with Mrs Donald," he said.

Justice Morrison dismissed the appeal and ordered Mr Guillesser to be administrator of the estate. - APN NEWSDESK

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