A new document has emerged suggesting Australian author Colleen McCullough wrote a fresh will leaving her estate to her husband, the New South Wales Supreme Court has heard.
The internationally acclaimed author of The Thorn Birds and a series of novels about the Roman Empire, died in hospital on Norfolk Island in January 2015, aged 77.
The Supreme Court was today due to begin a seven-day hearing about who inherits her estate.
The case has been brought by the author’s agent, Selwa Anthony, who is the executor of a will leaving the author’s estate to a university in Oklahoma in the United States.
But another will leaves everything to her widower Ric Robinson and Mr Robinson’s barrister David Murr told the judge a previous will had been superseded.
In legal argument on Tuesday, the court was told that on Saturday, Ms Anthony’s legal team found a letter dated October 24, 2014, which purports to refer to Mr Robinson as the beneficiary.
The plaintiff’s barrister Kim Morrissey SC said the plaintiff’s team had been given the document in February 2015 but had overlooked it.
He asked for a day to find out more about the letter, prepare a reply and possibly amend the statement of claim.
But Mr Murr opposed the request, saying the plaintiff’s legal team had had plenty of time and accused them of “sitting on the letter” for three years.
The judge ordered Ms Anthony’s legal team to provide a proposed amended statement of claim to the defence by 5pm Tuesday.
The court hearing, which is now set to begin tomorrow, is due to hear from handwriting experts about whether certain initials on documents were done in McCullough’s usual style, and whether she was even capable of lifting a pen in such a way.
The author suffered crippling arthritis and had gone blind in the years before her death.