A wealthy Sydney man who left his estate to his GP was urged to reconsider after the solicitor responsible for authorising the will had his office raided by police, a court has heard.
Raymond McClure, who died aged 84 in 2017, had altered his will twice in the five months before he died to leave his GP, Dr Peter Alexakis, 90% of his estate worth more than $30m.
Previous wills – the first of which was made in 1986 – made the Salvation Army and other individuals, including a longtime business partner, the beneficiaries of McClure’s estate.
The Salvation Army’s legal secretary, Gary Masters, is challenging the validity of the final will in the New South Wales supreme court, arguing it was executed in suspicious circumstances and Alexakis had undue influence over McClure.
The will is also subject to multiple cross-claims. Alexakis says he had no knowledge McClure included him in the will and he never discussed the extent of the estate with his patient.
On Wednesday, solicitors from the legal firm that prepared the final will, Peter Skouteris and Angelo Andresakis, gave evidence.
Skouteris said police raided the pair’s office in September 2017 as part of an investigation into a claim there had been “undue influence” over McClure when he had signed his will.
On 10 October 2017, the pair sent a letter to McClure stating he should consider revising his will – including possibly seeking further legal advice. It read in part “there’s a real question as to the validity of your current will”.
Skouteris told the court the letter was written not because of any concern with the conduct of Alexakis, but because of the police investigation.
He said police had never raided his offices in relation to an investigation into the preparation of a will in the more than 25 years he had worked at the firm.
McClure died less than six weeks after the letter was sent. The final will was not revised.
Andresakis told the court that while Alexakis had introduced him to McClure, and arranged further meetings between the pair, Alexakis had never told him that he expected to be a beneficiary of the will.
He said on the four occasions he met McClure he appeared mentally sound and at times expressed fondness for Alexakis.
Andresakis said McClure also made multiple mentions on their first meeting, while McClure was in hospital, that he wished to alter his will to exclude the Salvation Army because of concerns he had regarding the history of child sexual abuse within the organisation.
McClure told Andresakis he and Alexakis had a shared interest in the same part of Greece and that he wanted to “look after” his doctor because he had been “very good” to me.
Although McClure had been severely unwell at the time, Andresakis said the only sign he was ill was his swollen legs.
“It wasn’t obvious, the only thing that I can recall that sticks in my mind is that his legs were really swollen,” Andresakis said.
“Mentally he was very … on the ball, so to speak. He was very mentally energetic, you know, he was quite an interesting fellow too as he spoke.
“Considering he was in hospital he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself or anything, he was a really nice man.”
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Andresakis believed McClure was well aware how much of his estate he was leaving to Alexakis, he told the court, despite initial drafts of the revised will only including 10% of the estate for the doctor. He also did not feel the need to read the will to McClure to ensure he understood its contents, despite McClure having cataracts which meant he used a magnifying glass with a light attached to read.
Andresakis said that to the contrary, it was clear McClure had a firm understanding of how he wanted his estate divided, even including provisions for who was to receive his porcelain Hummel figurines, and separate instructions for the glass cabinets they were contained in.
“He was quite particular about making provision for the Hummel,” Andresakis said.
The court has previously heard that Alexakis denied striking a deal with McClure to keep him out of hospital in return for provision in his will.
Alexakis said during a hearing this week McClure’s will was the second time he had benefited from the will of a patient finalised by Andresakis.
Andresakis also acted for the GP’s wife, who Alexakis told the court owned at least 17 properties, including eight shops, a bowling alley and a large office complex in Chester Hill, and a five-star hotel and four other properties in Greece. Andresakis had also prepared Alexakis’s father’s will.
He said he introduced Andresakis to McClure after his patient told him he wanted to get his affairs in order. The hearing before Justice Trish Henry continues.