Battle over tycoon’s bizarre will

2014-01-28 00:00

ECCENTRIC KwaZulu-Natal businessman Rob Taylor, who committed suicide by jumping off Table Mountain three years ago, did not leave his estate to his two sons, but to “all life forms”.

Taylor’s student sons, Byron and Nathan, are now challenging the validity of the will on the basis that their late father — one of whose most famous acts was to generously give away his Audi R8 car worth R2 million to car guards in Cape Town in 2010 — was not of sound mind when he wrote the will.

They are seeking to be declared the only two “intestate heirs” to their late father’s estate.

The will stipulates that a trust be established, the beneficiaries of which are “all life forms”.

The case was yesterday set down for trial in the Pietermaritzburg high court on August 25.

Meanwhile, a question mark also hangs over how much Taylor’s estate is really worth.

Byron Taylor says an inventory drawn up by an attorney after his father’s death calculated the gross value of the estate to be only R650 000.

His mother, Donna, who divorced Rob Taylor, is also currently seeking a separate court order to sequestrate her former husband’s estate on grounds it is insolvent, but a trial date for that case has yet to be set.

The sequestration application is being opposed by the executor of the estate, attorney Joanna Mayne, who is also embroiled in another pending legal battle by the late Taylor’s sons who want her removed as executor. They say they are unhappy with the way she has dealt with the estate and sequestration application to date.

According to Byron Taylor, for years before he died, Rob Taylor suffered from a “burden of guilt” arising from a boating accident at Midmar dam in which the son of Terrence Aupias (who is also cited as one of the parties in the court papers) was killed.

For a considerable period before his death, he said, his father displayed “extraordinary generosity” and bestowed gifts on a number of people, including Aupias and his wife.

“Both my brother and I know (and our mother will confirm) that the deceased [Rob Taylor] was severely depressed and profoundly emotionally troubled as a result of the [boating] accident,” he said.

He became “increasingly morbid, irrational and at times delusional and he ultimately committed suicide by jumping from Table Mountain in Cape Town”, he said, adding his father had behaved towards him and Nathan at times in a way that was “erratic and inexplicable”.

“He sometimes spoke of me being his reincarnation,” he said.

Byron and Nathan Taylor maintain that the pivotal provision in their late father’s will — that the estate must be used to benefit “all life forms” — is so vague that it is entirely meaningless.

All life forms conceivably are not confined only to human beings, but could also include animals, organisms and even plants, they say.

Successful, if eccentric, life journey

ROB Taylor was a qualified chartered accountant and a successful property developer who lived in Hilton and also spent time in Cape Town.

His father, Ian, was behind the initial development of the Howick retirement villages Amberfield and Amberglen. These were left to Rob when he moved to New Zealand.

Rob Taylor thereafter developed Amber Valley and was also involved with the development of Northway Mall, as well as the sky-diving facility Angels Way at Eston.

Taylor fell foul of the law in 2006 when he was caught speeding at 207 km/h in his Lamborghini on New Year’s eve and was fined R15 000 by a Camperdown magistrate.

A report about Taylor’s suicide referred to his fascination for Table Mountain, which he’d described as “the portal to heaven”.

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