Australian personal assistant claims de facto relationship with late millionaire, seeks inheritance

By Minh Hieu   June 26, 2024 | 05:32 am PT
Australian personal assistant claims de facto relationship with late millionaire, seeks inheritance
A view of the central coast region of New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Pexels
Melbourne-based personal assistant Zhenya Vernon has taken the children of late Italian-born millionaire actor Daniele Legler to court, claiming she was in a de facto relationship with him and is entitled to his inheritance.

Vernon, 44, argued that her relationship with Legler transitioned from professional to personal before his death, entitling her to part of his estate, according to News AU. The case was heard by the New South Wales Supreme Court last week.

Legler passed away in April 2022 at the age of 72, leaving behind a multimillion-dollar estate with properties across several regions, including New South Wales, Portugal, Liechtenstein, and Malta. His five children inherited his estate as his only legal heirs.

Vernon claimed their relationship became personal in 2018, and they cohabitated in his residence in Portugal.

She had access to Legler’s personal Westpac bank account, withdrawing A$35,000 (US$23,360) the day after his death and another A$22,300 three days later. They also had a joint bank account, from which she withdrew a total of 63,000 euros (US$67,510) since his passing.

Nadja, Legler’s eldest child, testified that she did not believe Vernon and Legler were in a de facto relationship, accusing Vernon of attempting to cheat her and her siblings out of their rightful inheritance.

Justice Ian Pike, despite describing Vernon as an "unsatisfactory and unreliable witness" seemingly motivated by self-interest and financial gain, acknowledged that she legally met the criteria of a de facto spouse. He noted that while the pair often traveled separately, they considered Legler’s residence in Portugal their home base and lived there together.

"She was his de facto within the meaning of the relevant statutory provisions," Pike stated.

Pike appointed an independent individual as the administrator of the will and scheduled a brief hearing in July to address the claim for costs.

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