Former High Court judge Mary Gaudron is being sued by her younger sister, who is seeking a share of their mother's will on the grounds that she is broke and should be entitled to support from the modest estate.
Helen Underwood, a pensioner from Brisbane who lives in a housing commission unit, is seeking a share of the will under the Family Provision Act. The courts will overturn the wishes of a testator if the person excluded from the will is a wife, husband, child or other dependent and judged to be needing of support.
The case was in the Supreme Court on Wednesday for pre-trial directions before a hearing on July 22.
Grace Gaudron, known as Bonnie, died in August 2011, leaving a unit in Birrong, in south-west Sydney, which was sold for about $360,000 and divided between Mary and her sister Kathryn, according to the terms of the will.
Mary and Kathryn were the administrators of the estate and there were also legacies to grandchildren. But Ms Underwood and her brother Paul were specifically excluded from the will. Both were estranged from the family. In Ms Underwood's case, she had not seen her mother for 20 years.
Ms Underwood said Mary had gifted $80,000 to Paul, who lost a foot when he was eight years old in a train accident.
Ms Underwood is now seeking to obtain a share of the estate on the basis that she is impecunious and has no other means of support.
There is clearly no love lost between the sisters, who grew up five years apart in Moree.
Ms Underwood contends she lived in the shadow of her gifted older sister, Mary, who won the Sydney Univerity law medal and went on to become a Queen's counsel, solicitor general, a federal court judge, and ultimately the first woman on the High Court.
She, on the other hand, was constantly in trouble with her parents and has struggled over the years. She worked as an accountant and a taxi driver but is now on a pension.
Ms Underwood says she moved back with her mother in the late 1980s after a divorce but was evicted by Grace for reasons that are not clear to her.
One of the issues in the case will be whether Ms Underwood waited too long to bring her action. She contends she was not told by her sisters that her mother had died and only found out 15 months later, when she discovered a death notice online.
The story High Court judge Mary Gaudron sued over proceeds of mother's will first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.