By Michelle Stephenson
In Grillo Estate v. Grillo, an application to challenge the validity of a will turned on the Ontario court’s jurisdiction over a handwritten will made in Italy.
The testator, Domenico Grillo, was an Ontario resident who was in poor health and died during one of his frequent trips to Italy. Shortly before his death, one of his daughters received a call from a cousin in Italy, Anna Grillo, saying that Mr. Grillo was ill. His children received several more suspicious calls from Anna and, after learning that there had been many recent withdrawals from his bank accounts, they decided to have these accounts frozen and go to Italy to check on their father.
Unfortunately, Mr. Grillo passed away before his children arrived. Upon their arrival they found that his bank cards, documents, jewelry and other personal items were missing from his house in Italy, and thousands of euros had been withdrawn from his account over the previous 5 months.
On top of all of this, after the funeral the children were presented with a handwritten will, supposedly made by Mr. Grillo before his death, naming Anna as a fourth beneficiary. They noticed immediately that, in addition to the suspicious circumstances, the writing and words of the will were not their father’s. An Italian hand-writing expert confirmed that the will was forged and an application was brought in Ontario to declare the handwritten will invalid, and that the valid will made by Mr. Grillo in Ontario in 1994 was his Last Will and Testament.
Given that both Anna and the will in question were in Italy, The Court had to decide if it had jurisdiction to rule on this matter. Ultimately, the Court found that it did.
At the time of his death Mr. Grillo was still a resident of Ontario; under the Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, this meant that Ontario law would continue to govern his will with regards to his personal property and bank accounts in both countries. Furthermore it was noted that it was not unreasonable for Anna to expect to have to answer legal proceedings in Ontario, as this was the location of the bank accounts she had tried to freeze until the new will was administered, as well as the residence of the deceased and his children.
The court found that the hand written will was clearly not made by Mr. Grillo and declared it invalid. His children remained the sole beneficiaries of his earlier Will, and their devious cousin Anna, who was already facing criminal charges in Italy for theft, writing, and registering a forged will, was ordered to pay over $8000 in costs.