Olivia Mead can now buy her crystal-covered grand piano and diamond-encrusted guitar. Having previously asked for 77 years of income until she’s 96, the teenaged Mead has been granted AU$25 million (just under US$20 million), to be paid within a couple of months, from her late father’s estate.
Master Sanderson of the Western Australian Supreme Court ruled that billionaire Michael Wright had “provided little” to his fourth and secret child, despite him paying $535,000 for 16 years of her life ($33,437.50 per annum) until he died. The judicial officer thus threw out the explicit provisions of Wright’s actual will, which had earmarked a generous allowance for her until she was 30, when she would be granted access to a $3 million trust fund.
What this case encapsulates is the erosion of “adequate provision,” “reasonable,” and other legal concepts and their replacement by grotesque caricatures which stroke the egos of self-entitled children, vengeful exes and other unfortunate classes of individual.
Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore…
Michael Wright’s intentions were abundantly clear. He obviously wanted his daughter to make her own way in the world. It is entirely foreseeable, given the purely gratuitous wish-list of hers initially presented to the court system after his death, that he sensed in advance that she had poor impulse control, little in the way of realistic ambition and not only a dependence on but also an expectation of others providing for her.
This only compounds the original problem of giving millions of dollars to any teenager, let alone one who demands to be spoiled (PER YEAR) with $40,000 for holidays, $20,000 for pet care, five pairs of $5,000 shoes, 20 pairs of $300 shoes, a $2.5 million house and $10,000 for fashion accessories.
Although an heir himself, Wright made a good fist of his family fortune and was a well-known and respected business figure in Perth, the state of Western Australia, and nationally. Also, describing the $535,000 Wright gave for the upkeep and needs of Olivia as “little” is ludicrous. Nearly $35,000 per year is a huge figure by most parenting standards and more than enough for a very comfortable childhood, not to mention that $535,000 across 16 years is worth much more in real terms due to inflation.
He additionally paid her school fees and gave her an allowance on top of the child support he had to furnish her mother with. The idea that a child should be given support commensurate to someone’s overall fortune is both fanciful and bizarrely self-entitled.
It is one thing for a child or probably self-interested mother, incensed she was dispensed with as a potential billionaire wife, to argue that they deserve more. But for a judicial body, no less the Supreme Court of Western Australia, which is only provincially “outranked” by the Full Bench of that same Court, to entertain such folly and largely accede to the girl’s gargantuan demands speaks volumes about the degradation of family and inheritance law.
You can now write your final testament in three foot letters and have it trampled on by a do-gooder, reality-bending, judicial officer.
How much is that diamond-encrusted guitar in the window?
Wright’s provisioning for his bastard daughter was nothing short of extraordinary. Without stipulating a new law officially, Master Sanderson has effectively, like other revisionists of his ilk, equated “adequate provisioning” with a certain slice of a billionaire’s fortune, rather than evaluating if the funds furnished in the will reflect the means for a proper, not fanciful existence.
Moreover, why can’t a father or mother simply decide to not include a child in their will or restrict or delay entitlements from the same will?
As unfair as it may seem to Mead, it is likely Wright never expected to father a daughter via an extramarital affair and did not devote equal time and effort to his different kinds of children. It is not uncommon or really surprising that a tycoon’s children born within wedlock would see their father much more or reap more from the family piggybank, even if we discount that illegitimate children are often produced when a millionaire or billionaire is older.
Nor is it shocking that some children are naturally preferred to others. Human beings are human beings, after all, and the negative impact of favoritism is almost certainly more acute when families have less finances to go around.
Having child favourites, either by choice or more benignly by social circumstance, should nonetheless not be a moral basis for receiving $25 million. It is believed that the Wright-Mead case is the highest court-ordered estate ruling in Australian history.
Closing thoughts and collective head-shaking
This situation conjures up all sorts of possibilities and other hypothetical horror cases. What if Mead and Wright had had a strained relationship? And although the Gates family resides in the US, if billionaire Bill died today, should his children be happy with $100,000 each if that’s all that he leaves them? Or do they have any recourse to claim more?
Even those who inherited, such as Donald Trump, fundamentally own the wealth they are bequeathed by their affluent parents. They have a choice to give such wealth when they pass. It’s already a problematic field when the will is hazy, but when the words are as bright as Lena Dunham is tactless, what sort of legal sadism is it to reverse or discard their meaning?
If you want to know why the world we live in is seemingly falling apart at breakneck speed, take this Olivia Mead case, assemble a few others preposterously like it, and then use a form of simple induction to work out that nothing should surprise you anymore.
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