Although the following true
story happened in Australia, it
easily could have taken place
anywhere in the U.S. The names,
taken from a court case, have not been
Betty May Harris was an elderly
widow with a $12.5 million fortune.
She had no descendants, but she did
have nieces and a nephew. In 1996,
when she was 82 years old, Betty May
executed a will naming as her sole
beneficiary one niece, Coralie Hart,
even though Betty May had very little
contact with her.
In 2004 Betty May was hospitalized.
She was visited there by her neighbors,
Mr. and Mrs. Gray, whom she
had known for 35 years. Betty May
was reluctant to contact her relatives,
but eventually Mrs. Gray learned how
to get in touch with Coralie. After
Coralie came to see Betty May in
the hospital, she went to Betty May’s
house to look through her financial
papers. There she discovered her
status as the sole heir under the 1996
will, as well as the extent of Betty
Coralie applied to be named guardian
for Betty May. Based upon the
testimony of a physician who examined
Betty May in the hospital, and
who believed that she suffered from
moderate dementia, Coralie and her
son-in-law, Mr. Swindells, became
guardians. Mr. Swindells then transferred
Betty May’s assets to his own
name and began charging significant
fees for his financial management work.
When she returned from the hospital,
Betty May was outraged to discover
that her house had been ransacked.
What’s more, she had lost control of
her own bank accounts and was very
angry about the guardianship. She
turned to her friends, the Grays, who
arranged for her to be seen by two
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