Lawyer caught up in family dispute over mother’s will

2014-08-21 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG lawyer has become embroiled in a family dispute over the authenticity of a Northdale woman’s will.

Morgan Govender, son of the late Poonamah Govender, has asked the high court to declare his late mother’s will invalid on grounds that her signature on the document is a forgery, and that the will wasn’t properly signed by witnesses in her presence.

Another will in her name — which was initially lodged with the Master of the High Court — was rejected when Morgan Govender discovered his sister, Sharmla Moodley, had signed as “testatrix” instead of his mother.

The attorney responsible for drawing up the will, Sergie Brimiah, had then sent a second will to the Master’s office.

It is this will that Govender alleges is a forgery.

His sisters, Sharmla Moodley and Nirashni Govender, are opposing the application and maintain that the will is valid.

Brimiah strongly denies in an affidavit that he acted fraudulently in relation to either of the two wills.

Brimiah says after he drew up Poonamah Govender’s will on her instructions, his former secretary, Jenine Bielding, attended to her and her daughter, Sharmla, in his absence.

Although he was under the impression Poonamah Govender was present when the will was signed he cannot verify this, because he wasn’t there.

Brimiah said he doesn’t know how it came about that Moodley signed as testatrix on the first will. He had not noticed the error when he lodged the will the first time.

It was only when the Master rejected the will, and he inquired from his staff, that he was told there was another will in Poonamah Govender’s file. He did not personally draw up the second will, he said.

Brimiah denied an allegation by one of the witnesses to the will, Christopher Reddy, that he produced a document for him and his colleague, Solly Alijan, to sign during 2012 (after Poonamah Govender’s death).

Morgan Govender said in his affidavit he’d expected to inherit his mother’s property in Bombay Road when she died because she told him in 2007 that she had made a will bequeathing the property to him. They were “close”.

He was “alarmed” when he heard at a reading of the will by Brimiah after her death that she’d left the property to his sister, Nirashni.

Govender alleges a handwriting expert supports his claim that his mother’s signature on the second will is a forgery.

Govender opened a criminal case with the SAPS who are still investigating.

Judge Gregory Kruger yesterday adjourned the case to a date to be arranged for the hearing of oral evidence. The judge was told the parties are engaged in settlement talks.

EXPLAINING how she came to mistakenly sign her mother’s first will as “testatrix”, Sharmla Moodley said in her affidavit she went with her mother to Brimiah’s office to draw up her will in 2007.

While her mother was consulting Brimiah, his secretary brought a will out to her which she signed in error as testatrix.

When the secretary realised the mistake, she’d said she would print another copy and get her mother to sign it.

Moodley said her mother later told her she had signed her will.

Poonamah Govender died on November 16, 2011.

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