There Was An Old Woman From Toorak

While I was on the train this morning, I couldn’t help eavesdropping on the conversation being had by two guys sitting across from me. From the fact that one of them was scribbling notes in the margins of a paper entitled ‘Taxation Issues Relating to Deceased Estates’, I was able to deduce that they were estate planning lawyers based in Melbourne.  They’d flown in to help with the preparation of a will for an eccentric and extremely wealthy elderly woman.

The stories they were telling about her sounded made up, to be honest. Apparently, she has 12 pugs living with her in her Toorak mansion, every interior surface of which she’s had painted or tiled or carpeted in various shades of purple. She also, purportedly, owns millions of dollars worth of contemporary art. But the real weirdness kicks in with the fact that (according to the lawyers) she intended to have her body preserved in formaldehyde by a high-profile British artist, and presented to the beneficiaries of her estate. She would, in effect, become part of her collection of personal assets.

The lawyers sounded a bit concerned about the legal implications of this, as well as about her proposed nomination of beneficiaries: her pugs. As a minor aside, there were also some questions on the table regarding the effects of marriage, divorce and re-marriage on how the distribution of her questionable assets would pan out. Somehow, through one kind of administrative oversight or another, she’s managed to end up officially married to two people at the same time, neither of whom know about her being married to the other.

However much these lawyers know about the technicalities of probate, Melbourne is probably looking like a pretty strange place to be right about now. It’s hard for me to believe that all this is true, though. Could it have been some kind of lawyerly in-joke? Or maybe they were actors doing a training exercise? I’ll never know.

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