High Court not convinced by brother’s contest with Church over sister’s will


A man has failed to convince the High Court that his late sister’s house should be taken from the Catholic Church and given to him.

The Court’s decision in favour of the Church refutes Colin Morais’s claim that it was not using his late sister’s house in accordance with her last wishes.

Her wishes were clear.

When 52-year old Carol Morais died in 2016, she left her Bishopdale home to the Sisters of Mercy in Christchurch to be used for their benefit.

Her will said the property was not to be sold. If the Sisters had no use for the house, it should be left to the Christchurch Diocese’s Catholic bishop “for the exclusive use of their canons”.

As it turned out, the Sisters declined the gift of the house and it went to the diocese, which pledged to uphold the will’s intentions.

Although the diocese initially intended to use the property to house a priest, the plan didn’t work out.

Instead, after the property remained empty for a few months, the bishop offered it as rental accommodation to a young family while their new home was being built.

The $400 weekly rent went into the bishop’s general account and was used, in part, to fund housing for retired priests.

When Morais’ brother became aware of this, he began proceedings against the executors.

The gift of the property to the diocese was a “contingent gift that had not been perfected”, he claimed.

As the property was given to the church for the “exclusive use” of its canons but was not being exclusively used by them, it should be given to him, he argued.

The executors and the diocese argued the will gave the property absolutely to the bishop, albeit with the accompanying wishes that it be used for the purposes of the Catholic Church and not sold.

Justice Cameron Mander disagreed with Colin Morais that the term “exclusive use” placed a restriction on how the diocese could use the property.

He said the use of the word “exclusive” was to reserve the benefit of the house to a particular group, not a particular use of the property.

The judge also referred to separate documents in which Carol Morais said:

“You must do your very best for the property to go to the Sisters of Mercy or the Catholic Diocese of Christchurch. I do not wish for Colin to have this property. I have many reasons, most of which are known to you all.”

Her will also said while her mother was alive ” the house was a house of prayer, peace and sanctity. I strongly wish for that to continue.”

Mander said the evidence showed that the diocese had sought to adhere to the will by using the property to benefit its priests.


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News category: New Zealand.

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