A family is searching for answers after discovering their late mother changed her will, installing a local mayor as executor.

Angela died two months ago after a fall at a Queensland nursing home. She had been there for six months while suffering dementia.

After her death, Angela’s children Freya and Nils found they had been written out of their mother’s will and are now contesting it.

Angela died two months ago after a fall at a Queensland nursing home.
Angela died two months ago after a fall at a Queensland nursing home. (9News)

Instead of her family, the 85-year-old’s entire estate, estimated by her children to be worth about $500,000, had been left to an organisation called the Redland Foundation and the executor was listed as Redland Mayor Karen Williams.

Williams recently pleaded guilty to high-range drink driving after crashing a council-owned car into a tree.

She was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and was disqualified from driving for six months.

“We Googled the name Karen Williams and the only one that came up was the Mayor of Redlands and we thought: ‘No, surely not’,” Freya told 9News.

“My mother never mentioned Karen Williams.”

The Redlands Foundation promotes itself as a “philanthropic organisation that gives back to the local community”.

It has 12 directors, including Mayor Karen Williams and former Mayor Don Seccombe.

Another director of the foundation – Ian Neil – is also a director at McCarthie Durie Lawyers, the firm who prepared Angela’s will in 2019.

Angela's daughter Freya said she never heard her mother mention Karen Williams.
Angela’s daughter Freya said she never heard her mother mention Karen Williams. (9News)

McCarthy Durie solicitor Sandi Shuttleworth, witnessed and signed the will. At the time she was also a director of Redland Foundation but has since stepped down from the role.

“We don’t want to let things lie because we have too many questions we want answered,” Freya said.

“I’d find it odd if I were a ratepayer of Redland and my mayor was spending her time executing people’s wills, I would ask why.”

The family is now contesting the will, questioning the arrangements in place, and said their mother changed it “about five or six times” in the previous years.

They have copies of earlier versions, prepared by the Public Trustee, where they were beneficiaries with no mention of Karen Williams, or her charity.

Angela’s family and friends say she was showing signs of dementia for years and question her capacity to change the will at the time, which will form part of the family’s legal claim.

“Things around the house, she couldn’t find things,” her son Nils said.

Family friend Marie-Louise Howie said she also noticed a change in Angela’s behaviour.

“In the last, say, five or six years, we went on some cruises together and we had fun together,” she told 9News.

“She was always fun but during that time that’s when I could see the big difference with her.”

Her daughter Freya said she was shocked to find the executor of her mum's will was Redlands Mayor Karen Williams.
So far Williams refused multiple requests from 9News for an interview. (9News)

9News does not suggest any party involved in making Angela’s will acted improperly.

However Angela’s family said they are desperate for answers, and so far Williams refused multiple requests from 9News for an interview about the will and the Redland Foundation.

In a statement, Williams said she did not know she had been appointed as executor until the 85-year-old died.

She said Angela first reached out to her after hearing about the Redland Council’s fundraising event known as “Diner en Rouge”.

“(Angela) contacted Council in mid-2019 after hearing about the funding raised for domestic violence causes through Diner en Rouge,” she said.

“This was the first time (Angela) had contacted the Council or myself regarding this matter.

“At her request (Angela) met with me and Council officers and explained that she was considering making a donation to support local domestic violence organisations, including potentially providing her home for those escaping domestic violence.

Family friend Marie-Louise Howie said she noticed a change in Angela's behaviour.
Family friend Marie-Louise Howie said she noticed a change in Angela’s behaviour. (9News)

“She was encouraged to obtain her own independent legal advice before making a decision.”

Williams’ full statement can be read at the end of the article.

9News requested a full list of donations handed out by the Redland Foundation in the last two years but did not get a response.

Instead, the foundation’s website was updated saying over the last eight years it’s given a $100,000 grant to the Centre for Women and Co. Redlands and a $30,000 grant to DV Assist.

But documents filed to the Australian Charities and Not-for Profits Commission (ACNC) show last year the Foundation’s overarching trustee had $997,300 in the bank, and handed out about $220,000 in grants and donations last year alone.

It’s not required to disclose its donations but its website shows it regularly gives to local sports clubs it’s affiliated with.

Williams is yet to provide Angela’s children with answers to all of their questions.

They’re calling for a meeting with her so they can better understand how so many parties associated with her Foundation were involved in the making of their mother’s new will.

NOTE: Angela’s family has requested surnames be omitted from this article.

The full statement from Redlands Mayor Karen Williams:

“(Angela) contacted Council in mid-2019 after hearing about the funding raised for domestic violence causes through Diner en Rouge,” she said.

“This was the first time (Angela) had contacted the Council or myself regarding this matter.

“At her request (Angela) met with me and Council officers and explained that she was considering making a donation to support local domestic violence organisations, including potentially providing her home for those escaping domestic violence.

“She was encouraged to obtain her own independent legal advice before making a decision.

“She was aware that funds raised for domestic and family violence – including Diner En Rouge – were held by the Redlands Foundation to benefit local organisations that deal with domestic and family violence.

“After 2019 there was no further communication between (Angela) myself or Council and neither Council or I had any involvement or knowledge of what was in her will.

“I did not ask to be named as Executor of (Angela) will and was completely unaware I had been nominated until I was advised of her passing and details of her final wishes outlined in her last will and testament.

“While I have been named as Executor there is a Supreme Court process that must first be followed for this to be confirmed so (Angela’s) final wishes of supporting local domestic family causes can be fulfilled.

“I did not know (Angela) at all before she contacted Council and was not in contact with her after 2019.

“Following (Angela’s) death, her sister contacted my office to advise that she was aware of and supportive of Ms Petersen’s last wishes.

“It is a matter for the Supreme Court to determine (Angela’s) state of mind at the signing of her will and determine the validity of her requests.”

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