Chief Justice his honour Satiu Simativa Perese yesterday dismissed an application by Iliganoa Sapolu challenging the will left behind by her husband, the Late Chief Justice Patu Tiavaasu’e Falefatu Sapolu.
Mrs Sapolu contested her late husband’s will against her sister-in-law, Samoa’s Ombudsman Luamanuvao Katalaina Sapolu, and her nephew Maka Sapolu.
The decision states that on 25 September 2020, Patu signed a Will, expressed to be his last will and testament. He died just over a year later, on 28 November 2021.
The Public Trustee was appointed Executor and Trustee of the Will. Iliganoa, who was married to Patu for almost 30 years, was first told about the existence of Patu’s Will a few days before the Public Trustee read it to the beneficiaries on 17 December 2021.
The news of Patu’s Will came as a shock to Mrs. Sapolu who says Patu had told her that he did not have a Will and that during their marriage he had discussed with her how he wanted to give his Estate to her, after making provision for his biological children who lived in Australia.
A motion for declaratory order was filed citing that Patu Falefatu “never made a will” and the Public Trustee had failed to follow an appropriate procedure when the Will of 25 September 2020 was read out by reading the will without all beneficiaries present.
That the Public Trustee had failed to determine that the Will deposited was sealed, that it has not been tampered with and to take extra steps to determine that it was in fact the last will and testament of the deceased.
However, the respondent, the Public Trustee, filed a Notice of Opposition asserting the Will was valid.
Among other legal issues cited the Chief Justice pointed out that “it must be said at the outset that although Mrs. Sapolu alleges fraud and dishonesty, there is no direct evidence of fraud or dishonesty on the part of Luamanuvao or Maka, or on the part of anyone else.
“This case involves the drawing of inferences from circumstantial evidence that lead to findings of fraud and dishonesty that can overcome eyewitness accounts.”
The Chief Justice further noted that he is of a clear view that Patu had his last will and testament prepared by his sister, as described by Luamanuvao.
“In his final few hours in Samoa before he left for New Zealand and the medical assistance he needed, he got off his sickbed and sat down on a chair next to it, he took a copy of his Will from Luamanuvao, read it over to ensure that it reflected how he wanted his estate to be distributed, and then signed the Will in front of witnesses.”
His honours also rejected evidence given by Mrs. Sapolu, that Patu told her that he did not have a will; (2) Patu wanted her to have everything except for 4 1/2 acres he wanted to give to his biological children living in Australia; and (3) that Patu was a Samoan matai and could give his Estate away in a mavaega to her.
According to the 28-page ruling, his Honour ordered that Luamanuvao Katalaina file an application for Probate of the Will of the late Patu Falefatu.
The Chief Justice also discharged the caveat against the granting of administration of the Estate of Patu Falefatu.
Furthermore, costs will be awarded to the Ombudsman and her son and a memorandum for costs must be filed and served by 31 January, next year.